Restaurant, bar owners split over 4 a.m. closing time

Google “sports bar in San Francisco,” and Giordano Bros. on 16th Street near Valencia stands near the top of the results.

But when beloved sports teams fade from their big-screen TVs — as was the case on Tuesday night earlier this year, when the U.S. men’s soccer team tied with Panama 1-1 in a World Cup qualifying match — customers who were standing two-deep at the bar head to the door for their next destination, well before the bar’s 2 a.m. closing time.

Adam DeMezza, co-owner of Giordano Bros., falls on the early side of a debate on Sen. Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) SB-384, passed by the State Senate this week to give communities the option of allowing some bar and restaurant owners to stay open and serve liquor until 4 a.m. The bill must still clear the assembly and gain the governor’s signature to become law.

DeMezza said even if he had the option, he would not extend his closing time to 4 a.m. — for multiple reasons:

“I wouldn’t consider staying open till 4 a.m. …  Even if it looks busy, I only get about 2 percent of my business between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m..”

Restaurateur Tony Gemignani, owner of Capo’s and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach, told SFBay the benefits of late-night hours can already be measured from other states like Nevada where after-hours crowds have thrived for decades.

Gemignani said he fully supports a later serving time, and already has a plan he would implement, based on restaurants he owns in Nevada:

“The numbers I’ve seen are worth staying open later for. …  Its hard for some restaurants to close so early when they do not open till late anyway.”

In 2013, California Senator Mark Leno proposed a similar bill, SB-635, which Gemignani said he supported. But like the current legislation, Leno’s proposal was met with mixed reviews before failing in committee by a 6-4 vote.

Via press release, Wiener acknowledged different cities and neighborhoods had different needs when it comes to nightlife:

“By granting local control to our cities to extend their late night hours, we can support areas that benefit economically and culturally from a strong nightlife presence, while ensuring that other cities and neighborhoods retain their current rules…”

Wiener’s legislation calls for 4 a.m. services to be limited to areas zoned for late-night entertainment and will be left up to local control. According to the San Francisco Planning Department website, zoning regulations specify how late a business can remain open at night.

Additionally, San Francisco businesses must show transportation services are readily accessible during any additional service hours. Muni currently offers overnight “owl” service, which operates selected lines every 30 minutes or hour between 1 and 5 a.m. BART trains stop around midnight, with limited late-night transbay bus service operated by AC Transit.

Once local regulations are sorted out, and extended alcohol sale hours are approved by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a business must then apply for an extended hours license.

John Carr, public information officer for the ABC said:

“Many licenses have a condition that they are done at a certain time. …  By law anytime ABC gets an application for a license it has to be reviewed by the planning department, the police department and the Board of Supervisors.”

Additionally, Carr said, each license application is unique and there may be certain communities that might not approve of a business staying open till 4 a.m.

The patrons of bars and restaurants will ultimately be the ones who – through their patronage – will determine if extended hours will work.

Casey Whiting, 22, from Novato, said he would like to have the option to stay out until 4 a.m., but that he would probably only do so a few times a month:

“I live in Novato and I think it’s hit or miss if it would work here. …  But for other places like San Francisco that have a lot more people it would probably do really well.”