SAN FRANCISCO -- The city has a complicated relationship with the party buses that shuttle inebriated club patrons from bar to bar in a seemingly endless quest for good times and cheaper Jagerbombs.
On one hand, business owners appreciate the extra customers said buses bring into their establishments. However, many clubs are increasingly seeing these benefits as not worth the hassle.
One trendy North Beach club has had enough. Monroe, a self-described "Hollywood speakeasy," is no longer permitting patrons from party buses to come inside.
"It's an open bar on the bus, so you're pretty intoxicated when you come in. So the negative thing is, I don't know if they're spending money in the club," Monroe owner Nader Marvi told KTVU. "I know of incidents where there is, let's say, 25, 30 guys who come into the club to cause problems. Security gets involved, and the security is outnumbered. They start beating up on security guards."
Alcohol consumption on party buses is legal as long as the booze served on board stays on board; patrons carrying their drinks outside are liable to get an open container ticket.
"I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth, but I think a party bus parked outside a club can be a red flag to SFPD," party bus owner J.C. Davis told The Huffington Post. "Some club owners will want you to drop people off around the corner or down the street rather then unload right in front."
Extra attention from the authorities often leads clubs to reject welcome party bus patrons entirely.
"Club owners turn down people from my bus all the time," Davis said. His vehicle is fully loaded with a 30-square foot dance floor, a rock club-caliber sound system, high-definition TVs and a generator powerful enough to power half a city block.
Reconciling the desire for more customers with the reality that such customers are highly intoxicated is a predicament Full On Flyhead lead singer Jeremy Levin has experienced firsthand. Levin has employed party buses on numerous occasions to help bring Flyhead's wide-ranging fan base into San Francisco for shows. "Most…[venues] welcome the additional headcount, but they definitely warn us beforehand, 'If anyone is visibly intoxicated, we reserve the right to deny them entry even if they've already paid for admission,'" he told HuffPost.
While party buses in California remain largely unregulated, officials have attempted in recent years to crack down.
Following the 2010 drunk driving death of 19-year old Brett Studebaker, who crashed his car into a sound wall on Highway 101 after spending hours drinking on a party bus, San Mateo Assemblymember Jerry Hill proposed a bill requiring all bus drivers to read a warning against underage drinking on party buses with underage riders and immediately terminate the ride of any illegal boozing is discovered.
Limousine drivers are already held to a similar set of robust regulations; however, because party buses are a relatively new phenomenon, they've largely rolled under the radar.
"The growing popularity of party buses requires that the law keep pace with the trend," said Hill in a statement. "These are really rolling bars--and teenagers should not be allowed to drink on them."
Hill's legislation was approved by the California Assembly and is now being considered by the state Senate. The bill's backers hope to have it before Governor Jerry Brown sometime this fall.
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