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Originally published July 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Page modified July 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Seattle wants option to allow bars to serve past 2 a.m.

The Seattle City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes are joining Mayor Mike McGinn in a first step toward extended bar hours in the city.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seattle City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes are joining Mayor Mike McGinn in a first step toward extended bar hours in the city.

The mayor, along with Holmes and City Councilmember Tim Burgess, will announce Thursday they are starting a process to get the state to allow bars to serve liquor after 2 a.m., the current statewide cutoff.

"We'll be making a request as a city to petition the Liquor Control Board to permit case-by-case petitions from municipalities," Holmes said Wednesday.

McGinn proposed longer bar hours last summer as part of his Seattle Nightlife Initiative, a response to noise, violence and drunken behavior that sometimes occurs as people pour onto the streets after closing time.

He said more flexible hours — perhaps staggered closing times or even letting bars stay open all night — could make the city safer.

At the time, McGinn lacked support from other branches of government. The state Liquor Control Board, which sets bar hours, said at the time it did not agree with the idea.

Burgess will appear at Thursday's news conference but says he hasn't decided whether he supports longer bar hours. He said his council colleagues also have not made any commitments.

Council members Bruce Harrell, Mike O'Brien and Jean Godden said Wednesday that they favor longer hours, but that their support for any proposal would depend on the details.

"If it would make things safer and possibly add some life to the city, then I'm in favor of it," Godden said. "The idea of everybody getting out at 2 o'clock just does not seem to work well for us."

As part of his initiative, McGinn hired a consultant, the Responsible Hospitality Institute, which reported that longer bar hours would work well in Seattle. The hospitality institute gets a third of its funding from the liquor, wine and beer industry.

Later, McGinn touted an online survey of 2,400 people that showed overwhelming support for longer hours.

The idea got plenty of attention but didn't gain political steam, in part because it seemed the mayor had not consulted the state.

"In the last year, a lot of the legislative work that was needed has been done," Holmes said.

Thursday's announcement will be about the process kickoff: The City Council would consider a resolution to ask the Liquor Control Board to set up new rules to accept requests for longer hours.

If the council approves the resolution and the board agrees, then cities — including Seattle — could individually ask the board for longer or staggered bar hours.

"It sounds like a good idea," Holmes said. But he and others cautioned that the city should use the time now to consider the impact of changing the hours.

McGinn and Holmes both had financial and political support from members of the city's nightlife industry during their campaigns for election in 2009.

"I have heard from some people in the community who feel that this could make things worse," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who characterized himself as open to longer hours.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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