Panel Rejects Bill to Curb 'Happy Hours'

From a Times Staff Writer

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee on Tuesday killed a watered-down bill aimed at cracking down on drunk driving by restricting "happy hours" and other alcoholic beverage bargains.

The bill also would have banned "two-for-one" drink offers, "all-you-can-drink" promotions, drinking contests with liquor prizes going to the winners, free drinks and other enticements offered by bars to attract patrons.

The sponsor, Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale), said such promotions "encourage over-consumption of alcoholic beverages in situations where people drink and drive."

Called 'Can of Worms'

The bill was opposed by the California Restaurant Assn., whose representative called it a "real can of worms" that would create "confusion."

The defeat of the bill in committee, by a 3-4 vote, was the second in two years for Russell.

After failing to win committee approval in 1985, Russell amended the bill to remove a misdemeanor penalty for a first-offense violation and opted instead to let the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control establish penalties by regulation.

Russell said his next move will be to introduce a resolution asking the department to enact regulations to accomplish the same goal.

The bill was supported by John Lovell of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, who said it could be used to combat the drunk driver problem in the county, where 90,000 drunk driving cases are filed each year.

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