2 California mayors back bill to allow drinking in public

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Some downtown areas in California could soon resemble New Orleans’ Bourbon Street or the famed Beale Street in Memphis under a new proposal at the State Capitol.

State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would allow cities and counties to designate “entertainment zones” where adults could drink alcohol served by bars and restaurants on public streets and sidewalks.

The goal of Senate Bill 969, Wiener says, is economic recovery.

“By allowing this activity in targeted spaces designated by the local community, [this bill] will responsibly activate downtown streets where activity has struggled to rebound since the onset of COVID-19,” Sen. Wiener said in a statement on Friday.

Sen. Scott Wiener
Sen. Scott Wiener

Weiner cited research from the University of Toronto that found foot traffic in California’s largest downtown business districts has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

San Jose, researchers found, has recovered the most, but Los Angeles and San Francisco are still lagging.

“This legislation will help revitalize and diversify downtowns that need support, boost local economies, and support small businesses,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed whose city is among SB 969’s sponsors. “Entertainment Zones are exactly the kind of creative, flexible tool we need to help local jurisdictions build an even stronger economic recovery.”

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan also expressed his support.

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“When safely implemented, SB 969 would make it easier for local businesses to host block parties, wine walks and events that bring us all together to help drive the vibrant future of our downtown,” Mahan said.

KTLA 5 News has reached out to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office for her position.

Last year, Wiener succeeded in passing SB 76, a similar law that only targeted San Francisco.

Groups including the California Alcohol Policy Alliance, Alcohol Problems and California Council on Alcohol Problems spoke out against the measure, according to CalMatters. Among their concerns, the groups argued that “entertainment zones” will make it easier for those under 21 to obtain alcohol. They also claim the zones would create neighborhood disruptions.

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street

SB 969, if passed and signed into law, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Currently, only a handful of U.S. cities, including New Orleans, Memphis, Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia allow drinking in public areas outside of permitted events.

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