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Made the feast ! Fresno is trying to keep bars and nightclubs open later – GV Wire

Fans of local bars and nightclubs will soon be able to party for two more hours on Friday and Saturday nights. This is a unique opportunity that is being seized by government and business.

A bill making its way through the Sacramento Legislature would extend last call to 4 a.m. on weekends and 3 a.m. on other days. But the change from the universal closing time of 2 a.m. would only apply to Fresno and six other California cities.

This is fabulous news for a club owner in Fresno.

“It will give us the opportunity to make more money, you know, extend hours…more time to sell,” said Cisco Mendez, owner and operator of FAB Fresno Nightclub in the Tower District.

Senate Bill 930, drafted by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would give select cities the right to control where and how bars could stay open later. In addition to Fresno, the bill specifies Oakland, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Coachella, Cathedral Springs and West Hollywood.

Wiener says extending opening hours would help the hospitality industry, which has been particularly devastated by the pandemic.

“It’s about allowing cities to decide what nightlife suits them locally instead of having the current one-size-fits-all,” Wiener said at a meeting of the Assembly’s political committee last month.

The owner of Tower District nightclub Fab is welcoming the ability to stay open until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights. A proposal from the state legislature would allow Fresno and a few other California cities to extend the hours of business that serve alcohol beyond the current 2 a.m. cutoff. (GV Wire/Albert Baker)

Mendez says the overtime would be helpful, since FAB isn’t open during the day. He says many of his customers are still strong at the current closing time.

“People are having fun, drunk. And to kick everybody out at some point… that always seems kind of, you know, counterproductive,” Mendez said.

The bill has the support of the mayor of Fresno and industry groups. A well-known attorney with ties to Fresno, however, objected.

Third time a charm?

It’s not the first time that Wiener has tried to keep the doors of nightlife venues open longer. His previous try in 2019, also with Fresno as a pilot city, failed on the Assembly floor. His 2018 bill — without Fresno — passed the Legislature before being vetoed by the then-governor. Jerry Brown.

Like the 2019 version, the City of Fresno is a voluntary participant with the full support of Mayor Jerry Dyer.

“Because SB 930 includes significant protections, multiple lanes of local control, and full evaluation before requesting extended sales hours, I’m happy to offer my support,” Dyer wrote Wiener in a June 14 letter.

During June 22 Steering Committee Hearinglobbyist Angie Manetti spoke in favor of the bill on Dyer’s behalf.

If the bill becomes law, it is not automatic that bars can extend their opening hours. Fresno would still need to develop rules and the bars/restaurants would still need a license extension from state regulators. The pilot program would run from 2025 to 2030.

Local nightclubs can benefit more than traditional bars.

“It’s not something we would do…but I’m not opposed to others having the ability. As long as companies manage it responsibly, I would be fine with that,” said David Rasavong, who operates Banzai Japanese Bar & Kitchen, and The Lincoln.

Alcohol watchdogs, law enforcement oppose

Cruz Avila, Executive Director of the Legislative Oversight Group alcohol justicespoke out against the bill at the June 22 hearing of the Assembly’s Government Organizing Committee.

He is concerned about drunk drivers on the road at the same time as early morning commuters.

“Just imagine people drinking after 2 or 4 a.m. when people get up just to get to work and what that might cause. And obviously there’s no point,” Avila, a Fresno resident and former CEO of Poverello House, told GV Wire.

Avila refutes the argument that the extension of the last call is necessary to help bars and restaurants.

“We can’t put a dollar in front of or replace that for the life of a human being,” Avila said.

He plans a meeting with Dyer to discuss the matter.

“I’m surprised how Fresno would… want to actually support this bill,” Avila said.

FAB owner Mendez says places like Las Vegas are examples of how a late last call can be handled safely.

“Responsible adults can manage their alcohol and make wise choices. I mean, people drink during the day, all day. There’s alcohol being sold all day. And that’s okay. But, you know, it’s effort and it’s a problem. But all of a sudden after 2 a.m., it’s a problem. I think it’s just a really weird way to watch adults “said Mendez.

The California Highway Patrol Association and several anti-alcohol abuse groups strongly oppose SB 930.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama declined to comment.

Next steps for the bill

Wiener’s bill is currently being considered by the Assembly.

The bill will then be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, scheduled for August 3. If he is adopted there, he will then go to the floor of the Assembly.

Although it originated in the state senate, the bill is expected to return there. The first version of SB 930 was a housing-focused bill, completely amended after votes in a process known as “gut and amend”.

Where will state lawmakers who represent the city land on the new bill?

Congressman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, voted against the 2018 and 2019 versions of Wiener’s bill. He is also a doctor.

Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, did not vote on either bill.

On the Senate side, neither Melissa Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, nor Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, were in the Legislative Assembly at the time of previous bills.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement