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Originally published Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Police department backs extending bar closing times

The streets would be safer if bars were allowed to stay open later, Assistant Seattle Police Chief Mike Sanford said Thursday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes I spent several years in Europe and many of those countries do not have a... Read more
quotes As a former enforcement inspector with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission I too see... Read more
quotes @tomday99 Really? Safer if allowed to stay opened longer? I very seriously doubt this... Read more

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The streets would be safer if bars were allowed to stay open later, Assistant Seattle Police Chief Mike Sanford said Thursday at a City Hall news conference.

Along with police-department support, Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to work toward extended bar hours has the backing of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and at least some of the Seattle City Council.

The council will take up a resolution Tuesday, and all three members of the council's Public Safety Committee appeared alongside McGinn Thursday as he announced the city will seek state approval for more flexible closing times.

McGinn wants the state Liquor Control Board to allow Seattle bars to stay open later, possibly 24 hours a day. Currently, bars have to remain closed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

"What we do know is this: The 2 a.m. closing time, the pushout, is a serious public-safety issue," said McGinn.

Releasing bar patrons onto the streets all at once is noisy and dangerous, he said, and creates a crush of demand on taxis that can prompt intoxicated people to drive home.

Supporters of the idea hope it would boost tax collections, too.

The state Liquor Control Board is less certain about the public-safety benefits of extending hours. Spokesman Brian Smith said the three-member board would need to see some evidence of community support and public-safety improvements before approving any change to state rules.

"This is the beginning of a careful and deliberate process," said Councilmember Tim Burgess, head of the public safety committee.

If the liquor board agrees in the fall to allow proposals on bar hours, McGinn then would seek council approval to ask the state to consider longer hours for Seattle bars.

Even if that's approved, McGinn said, bars would have to show that "they have their act together" to qualify for extended hours.

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

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