Wednesday, March 17, 2010

All Night Long

You gotta know about this: There’s a proposal circulating among Seattle electeds, bar/club owners, and opinion leaders to extend alcohol service hours in Seattle. The Seattle Nightlife and Music Association has been promoting two versions of the idea – the first to stagger closing times (2:00, 3:00, 3:30 or whatever) of venues based on size and other criteria and, more recently, to allow 24-hour service hours and “let the market decide.” Both have received initial support from Mayor McGinn, City Attorney Pete Homes, and several Councilmembers. Many news outlets have run stories, including Publicola, King 5 News, The Stranger, and KUOW here and here (CMs Richard Conlin and Sally Clark applaud the issue about half-way into Weekday).

To name a few of the proposal’s many benefits:

  • Times are tough and this would give a boost to SMALL BUSINESS. Bar, restaurant, and club owners would generate more sales, which would result in increased City revenues.
  • Having more night spots open in the wee hours would invigorate Seattle’s nightlife scene and would result in more “eyes on the street”, making people feel safer than they otherwise would while carousing or returning home from the late shift.
  • Perhaps counter-intuitively, proponents argue that public safety would increase, partly because of the above reason and also because police could better allocate their patrol officers. If they don’t have to be everywhere at 2:00 am when all bars close and patrons flood the streets en masse (after slamming as many drinks as possible come “last call”), they can more strategically deploy cops according to the varying closing times.

Of course, for either version of this proposal to work, the City would have to enact several measures to ensure that venues take responsibility for over-drinking patrons and comply with more stringent safety regulations.

Personally, I love the idea and not primarily for crass business self-interest. Yes, Fremont Brewing could benefit from increased late-night sales of our product – but so would everyone on tap. Rather, I find increasing City revenues and boosting Seattle’s nightlife scene the most compelling reasons to go forward. And I agree that extending alcohol service hours would decrease many of the problems associated with the binge drinking caused by mandatory 2:00 closing times.

All-night/extended drinking is nothing new in many GROWN-UP cities in the US and beyond (see above news sources for examples). But Seattle’s sad legacy of over-the-top blue laws might contribute to resistance to this effort. Leading with the indisputable economic benefits might be the best approach: Seattle needs more sales and B&O tax-generated revenues to fund services we demand, like parks, libraries, and cops & firefighters. Equally important, instead of inhibiting nightlife, Seattle should take full advantage of the rich cultural resources this city has been famous for (namely the performing arts and its resident, thirsty hipsters) and give folks more options for public, communal recreation.

My last word on this is that we’re lucky to have such an engaged, politically savvy group of bar/club owners to guide policy makers on this (esp. The Red Door's Pete Hanning and The 5 Point Cafe's David Meinert). They’re putting in a lot of time and energy to provide the political cover our electeds need to persuade the WA Liquor Control Board to change existing regulations. It’s easy to kvetch about how hard it is to make a buck but the SNMA has a plan that all bar/club/restaurant owners stand to gain from.

1 comment:

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