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Originally published July 25, 2011 at 3:32 PM | Page modified July 25, 2011 at 10:33 PM

Booze after 2 a.m.? Seattle asks state to allow longer bar hours

The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a resolution asking the State Liquor Control Board to allow local jurisdictions to extend bar hours past 2 a.m., the current legal cutoff for liquor sales.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes "Public safety is our number one priority. We've asked the mayor's office to provi... Read more
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The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a resolution asking the state Liquor Control Board to allow local jurisdictions to extend bar hours past 2 a.m., the current legal cutoff for liquor sales.

The unanimous council resolution asks the state to work cooperatively with police and cities to safely implement extended liquor service.

Seattle expects to submit a request to the state by Aug. 31. The Liquor Control Board would have 60 days to consider its current rule that bans alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. across the state.

Then it would be up to the city to create a regulatory framework to license and set conditions for any establishment that wanted to serve liquor past the current closing hour.

"We are not making a decision today to extend hours. We are making a decision to begin the discussion about the wisdom of doing this and to do this best going forward," said Councilmember Tim Burgess.

But the state remains skeptical of the proposal and wants assurance that drunken and disorderly conduct wouldn't be exacerbated by later bar hours.

"Public safety is our No. 1 priority. We've asked the mayor's office to provide us with evidence that staggered or 24-hour bar hours is safer," said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board.

He added that the issue isn't at the top of the board's agenda and that no other cities have asked for the change.

Mayor Mike McGinn last year proposed longer bar hours as part of a Seattle Nightlife Initiative. He said that later bar hours could contribute to a more vibrant entertainment scene and also bring in almost $3 million in new tax revenue.

Last week, City Attorney Pete Holmes and council members joined McGinn's call for the state to amend its rules to allow local jurisdictions to extend service hours.

The Seattle Police Department also supports the change, saying that the current 2 a.m. bar "push-out" strains police resources and contributes to violence, noise and disorder.

"What we know is that the 2 a.m. closing does not enhance public safety," said Assistant Chief Mike Stanford. He said the ultimate success of an extended-hours initiative would depend on the relationships the city and police develop with neighborhoods and club owners — and the regulations the city adopts to control it.

Currently, 15 states allow local jurisdictions to set alcohol service hours subject to approval by the state. But not all plans have been successful. Vancouver, B.C., in 2002 implemented a pilot program that extended bar hours until 4 a.m. in certain areas, but it experienced problems in part because too many extended-hour licenses were granted in too small a geographic area, according to a 2004 report by the city general manager. The city ultimately set closing times at 3 a.m.

The report concluded that "it is not necessarily the specific hours of liquor service that are critical, but how licenses and licensed premises are controlled, managed and regulated."

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

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