Keep Seattle's bar closing times at 2 a.m.
Unfortunately, Seattle city leaders and members of the City Council have asked the state Liquor Control Board to consider allowing localities to extend bar hours beyond 2 a.m. The correct answer is no.
Seattle Times Editorial
RESEARCH suggests that focusing on crime hot spots can result in more efficient use of limited police resources. Bars that close at 2 a.m. are a prime example of predictable trouble zones.
Closing time at bars is a knowable, manageable police concern, if the city is willing to bring its resources to bear at that time. Unfortunately, Seattle city leaders and members of the City Council have asked the state Liquor Control Board to consider allowing localities to extend hours. The goal is an enlivened nightlife and music scene and a desire to end the crunch of people leaving bars and causing street trouble at 2 a.m.
How about no? There is no need for longer drinking, more drinking or any other variation on the theme.
It is true that other cities have later bar-closing times. New York and Chicago, for example, allow closings until 4 a.m. (Chicago's late-hour special license even permits an extra hour Sunday.) But many other cities in California and elsewhere use 2 a.m. and the Earth still rotates on its axis.
The city's request to change bar hours is a solution, as the saying goes, in search of a problem.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants authority for a pilot project allowing some bars to remain open after 2 a.m. with strict requirements for security and training of nightclub staffs.
Mayoral spokesman Aaron Pickus says the city is already working on such training for bars that close at 2 a.m. but this remains a major concern. Instead of focusing on extended hours, the city should beef up requirements to ensure bar owners and their internal security operations are more responsible.
The majority of the city's five geographic precinct advisory councils — organizations that work with police on public-safety and quality-of-life matters — do not want extended hours.
McGinn often talks about the need to listen to citizens, those who are grass roots and close to the situation. He, therefore, should tune into what these people are saying; they are not clamoring to extend bar hours.
Stephanie Tschida, chair of the East Precinct Advisory Council, cited concerns ranging from stretched police resources, to bars that become magnets for people outside Seattle, to an increase in drunken driving.
State lawmakers are poised to cut liquor-excise tax sharing. For Seattle, the reduction could be millions of dollars and would eventually ding the police budget.
As Councilmember Tim Burgess, who is open to studying longer hours, puts it: "The council won't be motivated to extend bar hours, which likely will increase the demand for police services, when funds we use for police services are being withdrawn by the state."
In other words, the city would be embarking on an experiment to extend bar hours while experiencing a reduction of state support for police. This was not a good idea before any state budget cut. It will be even less compelling afterward.