You Might Like A 4 A.M. Bar Curfew But LA Bartenders Have Mixed Feelings
It looks like it's going to happen, people! A 4 a.m. alcohol curfew is coming to Los Angeles County, or at least some parts of it. Earlier this week, the California State Assembly approved SB-905, a bill that would allow bars in nine California cities — Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Long Beach, Coachella, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Oakland, Cathedral City and Sacramento — to stay open until 4 a.m. It goes to the State Senate, which already passed a similar version of the bill, and then to Governor Jerry Brown. If he gives the okay, the new late-night (or should we say early morning?) hours will take effect in 2021.
Although many of us (*coughs, looks in mirror*) are excited about the opportunity to add two hours to our carousing, your friendly neighborhood bartenders have some concerns. We asked a variety of drink slingers, who work everywhere from Highland Park to Long Beach, how they feel about extending last call.
Sonny's Hideaway (Highland Park)
Bar manager Jonathan Navasartian: Being born and raised in Los Angeles and never having visited a city with a curfew extending past 2 a.m., I am intrigued by the possibility. It would be a good thing for Los Angeles in the long term. Extending the legal time in which people are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages begs the question of safety in their communities. With the emergence of Uber and Lyft and the responsibility of the host to not over serve, I think it would be manageable. I also think it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep the kitchen open later so we could offer some subsistence for guests who are drinking more and longer. Logistically speaking, for Sonny's Hideaway, I would have to hire more bartenders to fill those extra shifts. To avoid overtime, I would have to add another shift on that day and reduce the hours worked by every employee, which, ultimately, would take away from their tips and would also shorten their hours worked in a shift. Having more hours of service for a business could be potentially beneficial but it might not be as lucrative for the employees. For competitive reasons and dictated by surrounding bars, one business might be compelled to stay open later without the sales to support that decision. The opportunity for an establishment to gain two more hours of sales is enticing. It also might hurt in regards to labor and staff morale if those nights don't warrant being open later.
Bar Tribute (Sherman Oaks)
Bartender Christopher Day: So long as it's not arbitrary, I'm relatively indifferent to the new California measure. I see a fair number of bars and clubs — especially in Hollywood and some parts of Downtown L.A. — being able to use this to make a quite a bit more profit for themselves and their staff. But with more profit also comes exacerbating the already unhealthy sleeping and eating habits for the staff that works at these establishments. (This might not be a worry for some but it should be.) Not to mention the fact that our public transit infrastructure is laughably unprepared to deal with our current nightlife hours, so I don't see how elongating them is a wise idea for our overall economy, unless they have plans to simultaneously overhaul our rail and bus schedules. Truthfully, I'd rather see more legislative effort put toward helping end our homeless epidemic but that may not be here nor there.
The Abbey (West Hollywood)
Bar Manager Jason Christopher: I think bars staying open until 4 a.m. is a great thing. Staying open later is a win-win situation for everyone. Not only does the increase in cash flow help the business profit but employees should see an increase in their income as well. Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world. I'm surprised it doesn't have a 4 a.m. curfew like most major cities. Staying open later will only stimulate the economy. I don't think the demographic of people changes. Just because you stay open until 4 a.m. doesn't mean you get a different crowd. It might change the hours they are at the bar. I used to bartend at an after-hours [bar] that went until 4 a.m. We made almost as much in tips per hour after 2 a.m. just selling Red Bull, juice and water. For me, it's an opportunity to make more money.
The Auld Dubliner (Long Beach)
Bartender Christy Caldwell: A lot of trepidation, especially at the start of this. When we are in New York, people don't go out sometimes until 10 or 11. Here, they start drinking much earlier. Those extra two hours have the potential to be quite sloppy while people get used to the time change. For nightclubs, it probably makes sense and smaller neighborhood bars also maybe. There's always a few night owl bartenders that like the late shifts. For tourists or for locals who want to have a later drink, it will be nice to be able to recommend a late spot where they can continue their festivities. This is probably how it will pan out. As with other cities that have 4 a.m. laws, not every place stays open that late but the option will be there and that's a good thing overall. If nothing else, it'll make the guys clean faster at the end of the night so they can grab a nightcap on the walk home.
Bar Covell (Los Feliz)
Bartender Shaughn Buchholz: People say nothing good happens after 2 a.m. because people find ways to keep consuming alcohol and when people are drunk, they tend to get in more fights, they fall down and they get sick. That's when you turn into a babysitter, therapist, health care professional, first responder. It's a lot of responsibility to put on bartenders when we already have a lot of responsibilities put on us by the state. I always have to cut people off and when I cut people off, it instantly sparks a debate. They're not happy about it. Imagine that at 3 in the morning, when someone is very intoxicated, people get violent. That's my concern. I'm just looking at it from all the scenarios where I had to deal with it firsthand. But it would be interesting to try, especially in a place like West Hollywood. I know there are bartenders and businesses that would be interested in doing it. And I'm sure I would go to one. But I don't know, if I wasn't at Covell, if I would seek to work in a place that had that because it brings a certain clientele that requires a lot more babysitting. The people who are typically up that late aren't just drinking alcohol. That's just the truth of nightlife but I don't want to deal with that crowd either.
Tonga Hut (North Hollywood)
Bar owner/bartender Marie King: I personally don't think L.A. is ready for it. We just don't have a culture for it. Alcohol still has a stigma in this country. It's not like Europe or even New York where kids want to go out and get a little crazy. 2 a.m. is their friend. We have two groups of customers. The first group is people who are older, into the tiki culture and they are usually done drinking by 10 o'clock. Just by virtue of being older, they start earlier. The second group is young and I wouldn't stay until 4 a.m. to accommodate them. I would have to have more staff, two shifts of security, an extra shift of bartenders. I'd have to bring in a whole set of staff and cut people's hours. I don't think that cost differential would be beneficial. People who are drinking from 2 to 4 a.m. probably shouldn't be drinking. In New York it's embedded in their culture. We have so many problems between 1 and 2 a.m. The hardest time for anyone who has worked at the Tonga Hut is that hour around last call because people push it. But I think a place that has food would definitely benefit from being open until 4 a.m. Everybody wants to grub at 2 a.m. If you could have a beer with your food, even better. That could be a total win.
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