Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz spoke out Thursday against a state bill that would allow some bars and nightclubs to stay open until 4 a.m. and said it would lead to more deaths from drunk driving.
"Let me be clear. If this passes we can expect more DUIs, more drunk driving and more alcohol-related deaths," Koretz said while surrounded by opponents of the bill at a City Hall news conference. "Once this is the law it will be much harder to reverse."
The Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night Act (LOCAL) passed the state Senate and is now before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If approved and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, individual cities would have the power to extend alcohol sales hours from California's current 2 a.m. curfew until as late as 4 a.m.
The bill's supporters, including co-author Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), argue that the law banning booze sales from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. is outdated -- it was written in 1935 -- and is not in line with Los Angeles being one of the entertainment capitals of the world. They also say it would help businesses while giving the decision-making power to local jurisdictions.
The nonprofit group Alcohol Justice, which is opposed to the bill, said findings from various domestic and international studies have found that extending bar hours increases alcohol-related harm, including motor vehicle collisions.
But Wiener has argued that later bar times would be safer by creating a more regulated industry that would help fight underground, unsafe warehouse parties that cater to the after-hours crowd, and has pointed to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland in 2016 that killed dozens of partygoers at an illegal concert.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board endorsed the bill on Thursday and said "there's no firm science behind last-call laws, no data that prove that 2 a.m. is better than 4 a.m or 6 a.m. or any other time. The laws are more a reflection of a state's history, its cultural practices and its politics."
Veronica De Lara, a member of the Los Angeles Drug Policy Alliance, argued that even if Los Angeles did not approve a 4 a.m. closing time, many nearby communities were still likely to do so and lead to more drunk drivers on the streets of L.A. as they drove through on the way home or between bars.
"A decision by one area to extend drinking hours would attract commuter drinkers from neighboring communities, placing them back on the road to travel home," she said.
Koretz introduced a City Council resolution on Aug. 22 opposing the bill.