Prohibition is finally over in San Francisco – at least the last vestige of it.
Boozehounds and bartenders can rejoice now that making infused alcoholic drinks is no longer illegal.
And the change comes just in time for the last few days of Cocktail Week in The City.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday that he signed Senate Bill 32, which makes it legal for California bars and restaurants to infuse alcohol with fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices or anything else they want you to still be tasting the next morning.
The bill reverses a Prohibition-era law that kept restaurants and bars from serving drinks they infused themselves. It’s been reported recently that bartenders were fined up to $250 by the Alcoholic Beverage Control inspectors for violations. Other establishments reported being required to throw away $10,000 worth of infused liquors.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said his bill addressed an outdated law that hurt business and restaurants in high-tourism locales such as The City.
“This Prohibition-era statute did nothing more than punish California restaurants and small businesses that are using culinary innovations to survive in this difficult economy,” Leno said in a statement.
The bill contains an “urgency clause,” which means businesses can start selling their infused drinks immediately.
Josh Harris and Scott Baird, San Francisco-based bartenders and board members of San Francisco Cocktail Week, formed a grass-roots campaign to change the law after fines started being handed out. An estimated 500 supporters signed an online petition urging Brown to sign Leno’s bill.
Harris said in a statement that using the old law was a way for the ABC to “harass small business owners.”
“It’s hurting these establishments financially and hindering the creative and artistic craft of the cocktail,” he said.
San Franciscans have long been welcoming of cocktails and the drinking culture, and have embraced the mixology movement. The fifth annual Cocktail Week began Monday and lasts through Sunday. Events vary in location and price throughout The City. Visit sfcocktailweek.com/ for more information.