Will California’s extended drinking hours affect Vegas?

O’Sheas customers give a final toast and cheer before the doors close at noon Monday, April 30, 2012.
Photo: Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Poor California. With a 2 a.m. curfew on serving alcohol, it’s no wonder each weekend brings its citizens en masse to Las Vegas, a land unburdened by such draconian party fouls as “last calls” and “closing times.” If California State Sen. Mark Leno has his way, however, that may soon change.

Leno introduced a bill last week that would allow local governments in California to extend drinking hours at nightclubs and restaurants to 4 a.m., in part as a way to compete with 24-hour cities such as Las Vegas and Miami.

Leno says the legislation would “start local conversations” in destination cities about the economic benefits of expanding nightlife, including boosting jobs and tax revenue.

One-third of Las Vegas' 38.9 million visitors in 2011 came from California, but the Vegas nightlife industry says the proposed legislation isn't a threat to that tourism base.

"There are only so many clubs in SoCal to go to, and they got 22 million people so I think it’s good for them, but won't affect us," says Las Vegas nightclub veteran Tony Verdugo, who helped draw the Southern California party crowd to Las Vegas in the '90s with his monthly late-night parties at venues such as the House of Blues and Spearmint Rhino. "We're a 24-hour city. Those two extra hours they might have in California now won't make them that."

When asked whether cities like Los Angeles might now be able to draw late-night party DJs with more regularity, Verdugo is skeptical. Vegas nightlife is unique for its experience, not its hours.

"Who else really has Vegas-style money for the kind of DJs Mohammed Morani brought over for Hakkasan?" he says. "The reason they spend money here is because they can bring people to not just the club but to the casino for gambling, restaurants, all that. The change will be great for California, but we'll keep being Vegas."

How do other major cities stack up to Las Vegas? Take a look at last calls around the country below:

    • New York City

      Last call in New York City is at 4 a.m. Nightclubs can stay open after 4 a.m., but cannot continue serving alcohol. Bars may begin serving alcohol again at 7 a.m., except for Sunday, when alcohol can be served at noon.

    • Chicago

      Regular license bars in Chicago can serve until 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday and until 3 a.m. Saturday. Some bars have late night licenses extending serving hours to 4 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 5 a.m. Saturday.

    • Miami

      Miami competes with Las Vegas as a 24-hour city, with no time restrictions on alcohol sale times in the Miami Entertainment district; those outside the district must stop serving at 5 a.m.

    • Washington, D.C.

      You may want to take notes if you're planning on hitting the bars in our nation's capital: Alcohol can be served until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night and the night before a federal or D.C. holiday; and until 4 a.m. on the night of New Year's Eve and the beginning of daylight saving time.

    • Philadelphia

      Philly's infamously convoluted liquor laws require taverns to stop serving at 2 a.m. and at 3 a.m. for membership-only clubs. Sales can begin as early as 7 a.m. Beyond bars, alcohol can be purchased at Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board–operated liquor stores.

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