We've all been there.
Saturday night, a few verses into an epic rendition of "Hey Jealousy" at the Mint karaoke lounge. It's dark, you're a round of bourbons deep and serenading an audience of adoring fans like a rock star. The night is young, and you never want it to end.
Suddenly the fluorescent lights flip on, the music cuts to an abrupt stop and bartenders start ushering dejected patrons to the sidewalk. It's 2 a.m., and thanks to California law, your night is over just when it was starting to begin.
Enter State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), armed with a bill that would change the lives of partygoers throughout the Golden State forever. SB 635, a measure Leno introduced on Wednesday, would allow restaurants and bars in local jurisdictions to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., pending a full public approval process.
"Many cities in California have dynamic social activities that are vital to their economies, but they lack the flexibility to expand their businesses," Leno said in a statement. "This legislation would allow destination cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to start local conversations about the possibility of expanding nightlife and the benefits it could provide the community by boosting jobs, tourism and local tax revenue."
While a handful of venues in San Francisco keep their doors open long past the 2 a.m. booze cutoff (we've all slunk out of the Endup at sunrise once or twice), under current law, bartenders are strictly prohibited from serving alcoholic beverages during the wee hours.
Many restaurant and entertainment groups support the proposal, including the California Restaurant Association, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, California Music and Culture Association and San Francisco Council of District Merchants.
And while detractors will likely cite public safety concerns, Leno noted that he hasn't seen an increase in drunk driving deaths in other cities--like New York and Chicago--that serve alcohol until 4 a.m.
Of course, there's also the potential to give our late-night economy a kick in the pants. "Music, entertainment and nightlife in vibrant cities like San Francisco are significant economic engines for their entire regions," Henry Karnilowicz, president of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants, said in a statement. “Local businesses catering to urban areas that embrace late-night social scenes should have the option to responsibly diversify their company models to meet the needs of residents, including those who work unconventional shifts."
Leno's legislation will be heard in Senate policy committees this spring.
In the mean time, take a look at some of San Francisco's existing late-night venues, where you can drink Red Bull and bottled water long past 2 a.m., below: