CHS: City debates extended alcohol service hours

City leaders held a hearing about a State Liquor Board rule change that would allow cities to set their own bar closing times. Extending last call for liquor would combat what the mayor called “a huge challenge” to the police force every night at 2 a.m., supporters said.

As our sister site Capitol Hill Seattle reports, some nightlife leaders praised the plan, but some neighborhood leaders feared it would create later noise problems and other issues:

“I encourage you to not listen to fear mongering — listen to data,” Dave Meinert of Big Mario’s and the Capitol Hill Block Party said during his statement to the board.

“The thing that would be wrong here would be to promote the status quo.”

Safety was at the center of many of the statements by proponents of the proposal. Positioned as part of the city’s nightlife initiative, Seattle’s proposal would be part of a slate of changes — some already rolled out — to overhaul laws around bars and restaurants and optimize the area’s food and drink economy:

The City of Seattle is examining the potential impacts of a shift from the current 2:00 am closing requirement for alcoholic service beverage licenses to a “flexible hours” system. The change is being considered in response to the current system, which by unintended consequence encourages overindulgence while simultaneously pushing thousands of patrons on the streets with limited resources to effectively manage the activity. By transitioning to a flexible hours system, there may be an opportunity to improve Seattle’s quality of life by eliminating issues of public safety and nuisances associated with current closing times.

Stephanie Tschida of the East Precinct Advisory Council was one of several speakers who told the board the proposal would be bad for Seattle. You can read more of the EastPAC’s argument here.

There were also some challenging points raised. Derek Franklin of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention spoke against the proposal and talked about the potential danger of new laws that would push last call from 2a into the morning commute. Other speakers warned that later last calls would mean later noise and disruptions and that pushing back service hours would only push back the binge rush of last call to a different hour than 2a.

The Seattle hearing was one of four scheduled by the board as part of the process to consider Seattle’s petition to allow extended liquor service hours. Liquor Board chair Sharon Foster said she expects a decision by May 7.

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