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Originally published July 28, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Page modified July 29, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Nicole Brodeur

Losing sleep thinking about a later last call in Seattle

If the state Liquor Control Board approves the Seattle City Council's recent request to extend bar hours, closing time could come at different times for different bars. And that worries me.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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It's not so much closing time, as "opening the cages at the zoo," Marcus Lalario tells me.

Drunk people shouting, catcalling, scrambling for too-few cabs. It takes a while to get some of them to move along, no matter how organized and unified the bouncers and club owners may be. That's reality at 2 a.m.

But if the state Liquor Control Board approves the Seattle City Council's recent request to extend bar hours, closing time could come at different times for different bars.

And that worries me. I have visions of people drinking for hours on end, moving from bar to bar that have staggered hours until night becomes day and their revelry runs straight into the workaday world.

That could mean more trouble than neighbors and police are prepared for. We may get $3 million in tax revenue from later bar hours, but is it worth it?

Those who bought into Belltown condos have long felt under siege by nightclubbers, and I wonder how anyone gets any sleep in Pioneer Square. The games go on long after the Sounders, Seahawks and Mariners have headed home.

So it made sense to turn to Lalario, who has turned a sharp skill for music promotion and trend-spotting into Capitol Hill bars like The War Room, Havana and Captain Black's, and a seat on the Seattle Music Commission, which pushed for the longer bar hours.

He's putting the final touches on yet another venture: Li'l Woody's, a gourmet burger joint about to open on the slope of Pine Street. It'll stay open until 3 a.m. to serve the after-bar crowd.

So I asked him: How are extended bar hours a good thing?

"What people don't understand is the value that nightlife has in Seattle," Lalario told me. "The jobs, the economic impact, the taxes. It's not just the bartenders, it's the cabdrivers, the parking lots. And it's a tourist attraction. I get calls from Canada asking me what is going on in Seattle this weekend."

Not everyone will be looking for cabs at the same time.

Restaurants will be able to add another seating, and make more money, because people know the clubs will be open later.

Increased police foot patrols will be assigned to the areas to keep things calm (I've already seen them in Pioneer Square; I thought I was in a Capra film).

Jon Scholes, the vice president of advocacy and economic development at the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), acknowledged that I have reason to worry about later bar hours in certain parts of town.

"Oh, sure, we get it," Scholes said. "Belltown and Pioneer Square, we don't have good relationships with all of them."

Still, the DSA supports a pilot program with more police patrols and transportation.

"It's not the perfect situation today, so let's look at another model," Scholes said. "Not opening the gates so that everyone can do it at once, but identify the bars that have had good behavior."

If that wasn't enough to convince me, there was a study prepared last year by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) that called Seattle a "model city" for a pilot program for later bar hours.

Seems we have a "low-risk psyche" and are "well-suited to support a flexible urban policy." To wit:

"It is RHI's experience that the psyche of Seattle and its people exhibit a healthy balance, and an adaptable, progressive nature that would well support it as the city evolves."

That's true, as long as we can get a good night's sleep.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She's a morning person.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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