SF party buses hit bump in the road

A ride in a party bus spells out a good time for most: A night on the town adorned in your shiniest bling, while pouring the liquor freely with the bass turned high. The overall feeling is – at least for the night – you are P. Diddy circa 1997.

But what happens when you leave the booze carriage is what worries police and city officials. Noise and intoxication levels are among the biggest concerns, though incidents with underage drinking and drunk driving once patrons exit the bus have also raised red flags.

“It’s not a door-to-door service,” Vajra Grenalli, an Entertainment Commission inspector told the Ex. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, these buses are not from San Francisco. So by the time they get here, [passengers are] all pretty lit.”

On New Year’s Eve, as a bus unloaded people outside a North Beach club, the driver noticed one of the patrons left behind a bag with a gun inside. The driver called the police, which resulted in an arrest on a weapons charge.

One of the hurdles on regulating the party buses has been undefined municipal regulation. “There’s not much out there right now, even at the state level,” said Grenalli.

Goldie Bhullar, the owner of Angel Limousine Service in Castro Valley, pointed out the potential downside if the crackdown on party buses become too harsh:

“If they regulate, there’s going to be a loss of revenue in San Francisco because people will start going to San Jose and other areas like that.”

The bus operator advises that officials focus on weeding out the companies that are illegally operating, instead of punishing the entire industry. “I think you will get 30 to 40 percent less party buses if they check [which buses] have proper licenses to operate.”

Last year, Assemblyman Jerry Hill introduced legislation aimed at holding the bus companies responsible for their riders’ alcohol consumption. The bill has yet to be discussed by a legislative committee.