Open Accessibility Assistant Skip To ADA Content

LOS ANGELES — Wiping down tables and saying hi to his staff, Melody Bar and Grill owner Christian Warren gets ready for another day of customers.

My mom has often reminded me of this story about when I was just a little kid, and I told her that someday, I was going to own my restaurant,” Warren said.

Warren’s done just that, first launching Ma’kai in Santa Monica with a business partner in 2004 and, a few years later, buying Melody Bar and Grill, which was first established in 1952. He says it attracts both locals and travelers since it’s down the street from LAX.

“They come to California, and it’s an amazing state. We have all the sunshine and all the beaches and then we got this nightlife, and then it just shuts down way too early for the rest of the world,” he said.

But California’s 2 a.m. last call for alcohol could change. California State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is making another attempt to give bar, restaurant and nightclub owners two more hours of alcohol sales with SB 930.

This time, it only applies to seven pilot cities, including Palm Springs and West Hollywood, and each city will decide whether to stay with the 2 a.m. closing time or extend sales later. For pilot cities that extend alcohol sales, they must create and approve a plan reviewed by Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Wiener says the proposed legislation would help small business owners slammed by the pandemic.

“The ones that have survived, many of them are hanging on by their fingernails and we know that bars, in particular, make their money from midnight to 2 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. — a very short window. This will give them some extra time,” he said.

Warren’s bar isn’t in a pilot city, but if given the option, he says staying open two more hours could mean several thousand dollars of additional revenue. But there are challenges to consider, including finding staff to work late hours and the potential for unruly customers.

“You just have to weigh, ‘Is it worth this extra money that I am making, or is the liability not worth it?’” he said.

Patricia Rillera, the California state executive director with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says she’s concerned about an increase in impaired drivers on the road and that drunk driving deaths already increased by 20% in the state in 2020.

“Most deaths around impairment happen around midnight and 4 a.m., so that’s right within that target population. And the research also shows that when people are bar hopping, they are typically impaired later,” she said.

Warren says he would consider staying open past 2 a.m. only on certain nights of the week, much like the proposed legislation would allow the pilot cities to do.

“It would give everyone else an opportunity to make their own decisions on it,” he said.

The bill passed the senate in January and the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization on June 22. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.,