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Alcohol sales extension not well received Robert Moreno | Sat, Mar 30 2013 12:00 PM

Restaurants and bars in Chula Vista and National City could have the option of serving alcohol until 4 a.m., if California Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has his way.

Under California law, alcohol can be served from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. However, Leno’s proposed Senate Bill 635 would give cities the option to serve alcohol for two additional hours, expanding it to 4 a.m.

“This bill requires nothing of anyone, except give authority to cities to consider expanding alcohol times,” Leno said.

Tony Raso, owner of La Bella Pizza Garden, said he would not exercise the option, no matter how financially beneficial it would be to the state or his business.

“Expanding alcohol service times is not necessary,” Raso said. “It should never be past 2 a.m., no matter what the law says. I’ve noticed nothing really good happens after midnight.”

Leno said if the bill passes, cities do not have to expand the alcohol serve times if they don’t want too, but it provides a city with the option.

“If the city doesn’t want it, they don’t have to apply it,” he said.

April 9 is when the bill will be heard in the senate.

Leno said he drafted the bill because California’s travel, tourism and entertainment industry is the third largest in the country, expanding the hours would bring in more local tax revenue, provide more jobs and an increase in tourism in California.

The state’s travel, tourism and entertainment industry will be able to compete for tourism dollars with Las Vegas, Florida and New York, all three have alcohol serving times past 2 a.m., Leno said.

Assemblyman Ben Hueso, 40th District, said he has not yet taken a position on the matter because it is so early in the process. He also said he is waiting to get feedback from his constituents so he can set a position.

Leno said that 24 other states have alcohol served until 4 a.m. or at least provide the option, and California remains behind the pack.

The proposed bill only applies to on-sale establishments and not liquor stores.

Raso said increasing the hours would mean he would have to increase security at his restaurant, and it would also cause the city to spend more money on extra law enforcement.

Raso said he would endorse the bill if it only applied to beer and wine but not liquor. Beer and wine people usually have with food, he said.

Police Capt. Gary Wedge said while there have been studies that show extending hours can lead to an increase of violence and crashes, he would like to see more research and study done on the issue before the police department takes a position.

Wedge said under the proposed law, law enforcement can impose restrictions to it, but wants to know what kind of restrictions they can make.

Justin Thomas, owner of Stoney’s Bar and Grill in National City, said he too opposes the 4 a.m. extension.

“I don’t think it is a good idea,” Thomas said. “It would lend itself to more drinking and more problems.”

He also said he doesn’t think alcohol drinking times influence where tourist are going to spend their vacations.

He went on to say if the law were to pass, he would still close his establishment at 2 a.m.

“I don’t know too many people who would want to drink at 4 a.m.,” Thomas said.

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