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Infused Drinks Bill Passes: Governor Jerry Brown Signs Bill In Time for Cocktail Week

Infused Drinks San Francisco

First Posted: 09/22/11 05:46 PM ET Updated: 11/22/11 05:12 AM ET

Jerry Brown may be on a veto binge, but at least he's got his priorities in order.

On Wednesday, Governor Brown signed a bill legalizing infused alcohol in California. And not only did he sign it, but he also approved the bill's "urgency clause," allowing it to take effect immediately – right in the middle of San Francisco Cocktail Week.

"I feel like it's a great win for the collective voice of our community," said bartender and Cocktail Week board member, Josh Harris, who helped champion the bill with an online petition. "Score one for the good guys."

The bill was introduced by Mark Leno in December 2010 after the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) started storming upscale San Francisco bars like Bourbon and Branch for serving infused booze, including popular drinks like sangria and lemoncello, as well as housemade bitters, tonics and tinctures -- the very ingredients that make the local cocktail scene one of the strongest in the country. The law was an ancient piece of legislation left over from the Prohibition era, and the seemingly random enforcement of it caused serious distrust of the ABC from the local community. It also sparked a bitter battle between the ABC, the City and the San Francisco bar, restaurant and nightlife industries.

"That was just one more example of the ABC trying to make itself look relevant, and secure funding in a time of budget cuts," said nightlife marketing guru Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo in an August interview with The Huffington Post. "People have lost jobs and investors. This is serious stuff."

Harris's business partner said he hopes Brown's decision will inspire other nightlife communities to fight back. “I hope it sends ripple effects, setting precedent for the overturn of numerous antiquated prohibition era laws that restrict many others in our profession around the country," he said. "I’ll drink to that.”

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