You Don’t Have to Go Home, but You Can’t Stay Here

By James Madeiros


Major cities around the country are throwing their bar closing times into flux in response to budget gaps and public safety concerns.

In Washington D.C., where bars are currently permitted to serve until 2 a.m. on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on the weekends, Mayor Vincent Gray has proposed extending the cutoffs of an hour each in order to raise an estimated $3 million and close a city-wide budget gap. While the plan was recently voted down in council, it will likely be resubmitted during the council’s deliberation over the budget later in the year.

Boston is also looking to adjust the 2 a.m. closing times of its bars, albeit in the other direction. In response to the recent slaying of a 23 year-old veteran in an area plagued by violence, Mayor Mike Menino is asking the city’s licensing board to rotate the times at which bars in the Theatre District shut down.

New York City, too, has felt a push to reel in its 4 a.m. closing time in recent years. In 2008, the 4 a.m. standard was challenged by community boards and more recently NYC bar owners got nervous when Harlem proposed a shift to 2 a.m. Proponents of an earlier closing time cite concerns that alcohol-related crimes are facilitated by late bar closures, but advocates of the 4 a.m. standard say an earlier last call would impact the city’s famous nightlife atmosphere, costing bar owners tens of millions and hurting current and future job numbers.

On the other side of the 48, Seattle has petitioned the Washington State Liquor Control Board for flexibility in its statewide 2 a.m. closing time. The problem of a citywide 2 a.m. closure, according to officials, is that all bar patrons are pushed out onto the streets at once. Giving Seattle more flexibility would allow the city to stagger the times at which areas close down their bars so police forces can focus on specific areas. Opponents of the measure claim later closing times will only encourage intoxicated people to drink more, causing innumerable social harms.

Officials in Washington might be well advised to take a look at other major cities across the U.S. Whether adjusting closing times is in response to budget shortfalls or public safety, it’s apparent each major city has its own set of challenges in finding the proper balance.


Legal Stuff: Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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