McGinn's plan to extend bar hours gets big shot of support in survey
More than 80 percent of people responding to a city survey agreed that extending bar service hours would make Seattle's streets safer, Mayor Mike McGinn announced Tuesday night.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Seattle Channel: Mayor McGinn discusses proposed Nightlife Initiative
More than 80 percent of people responding to a city survey agreed that extending bar-service hours would make Seattle's streets safer, Mayor Mike McGinn announced Tuesday night.
The mayor has heard from more than 2,400 people, mostly online and some through community meetings, since he announced in July his Seattle Nightlife Initiative to curb nightlife noise and violence and lend more vibrancy to the city's nighttime scene.
"What we heard from those 2,400 people is they like the idea of extending service hours," McGinn said Tuesday night at a news conference updating progress on his initiative.
McGinn wants to allow bars to serve alcohol later — or even all night — to avoid the 2 a.m. rush of bar patrons into the streets after last call. The initiative also includes requiring training for bar security officers, tightening noise restrictions and promoting King County Metro Transit's late-night bus service.
McGinn outlined the points of his initiative inside Washington Hall, a historic dance hall and performing-arts space built in the Central Area in 1908. The hall was once a venue for some of the biggest names in American music, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Seattle's Jimi Hendrix.
Performances from a local poet and a hip-hop artist preceded McGinn's announcements, bridging the hall's extraordinary musical past with the city's potential future as an increasingly vibrant center for nightlife and entertainment.
Seattle constantly undergoes cultural changes, McGinn said, and "as our city evolves, I think there's an expectation that our service hours will evolve as well."
But extending bar-service hours may be a years-long process, McGinn said, since only the Washington State Liquor Control Board can allow it.
So far, the board is unconvinced that ending the mandatory 2 a.m. closing time would improve public safety, said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
McGinn is still studying the effects of changing bar hours and understands there are "sufficient questions" regarding public safety that must be answered.
In the meantime, McGinn has taken a few simpler steps to improve nighttime safety. He announced details of a proposal to work toward promoting existing late-night transit service and increasing the amount of curb space allotted for taxis, as well as a program that would allow people to prepay for early-morning street parking the night before, allowing drivers to get home another way and return later for their cars. The prepaid- parking change will take effect in April.
The mayor's report also outlined proposed new methods for enforcing the city's 2007 noise ordinance. McGinn's proposal details how the city should test for noise levels from bars and allow no sound to reach past a specific decibel.
Next month, the city will start enforcing the Nighttime Disturbance Ordinance that the City Council passed in August. That ordinance makes loud noises, threats or fighting between midnight and 5 a.m. a civil offense that comes with a $100 fine.
McGinn's Nightlife Initiative has the support of Police Chief John Diaz and some of the City Council.
The city paid the Responsible Hospitality Institute $10,000 in the spring to do a study of the proposal. That study said Seattle would be an ideal fit for longer service hours. The Responsible Hospitality Institute gets a third of its funding from the liquor, wine and beer industry.
Smith, of the liquor-control board, said a moratorium on new state rules bars the board from changing anything in the next year, anyway. Gov. Chris Gregoire put a moratorium on new state rules this fall to encourage economic development and keep a variety of small businesses from having to deal with new regulations.
Only 14.7 percent of survey respondents said they felt unsafe on Seattle streets at night, according to the survey, and 6 percent said they had had a problem with nightlife-related noise.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.