New House bill would allow bars to stay open till 4 a.m.

BY MIKE MERAR
For the Daily
Published November 10, 2009

If the 2 a.m. closing time of area bars has been hampering your Thursday night fun lately, new legislation being considered in the state House of Representatives could soon keep the party going.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Richard Hammel (D–Mt. Morris Township), would allow bars to stay open an additional two hours, until 4 a.m. The bill would also allow liquor stores to sell alcohol earlier in the morning on Sundays, beginning at 7:30 a.m., rather than noon.

It would cost $1,500 for a liquor store or bar to implement the new initiative, though. And if a city did not want its bars to have the two additional hours, the local city government could step in and prohibit businesses in its area from participating.

The bill was first introduced in June and it marks the second time a bill of this sort has been brought up in the state House, Hammel said.

Hammel cited many reasons for introducing the bill, saying “it makes some sense to have these options in some entertainment districts.”

“And then on top of that, it does raise some money,” he added.

For those eager to reap the benefits, however, the status of the bill is uncertain.

“It’s more of a revenue issue than it is a policy issue so it’s hard to say,” he said, referencing whether or not it will ultimately pass.

Opponents of the bill cite increased violence and drunken behavior as the major downside of its passage, but Hammel disagrees, saying that most people drink past 2 a.m. anyways, and this new bill wouldn't change anything.

Whether local bars and liquor stores would opt into the program is also up for debate.

In interviews this week, officials from local bars and liquor stores had mixed responses to the bill. Some said they would gladly pay the money to stay open later, but others were unsure of how much their establishment would benefit from the bill’s passage.

The management of Cavern Club, a local nightclub and bar on First Street near the Blind Pig, was among those enthusiastic about the bill. When asked whether the club would opt into the program, Manager Nick Easton said he was definitely interested.

“I mean, $1,500 isn’t that much to experiment with a new policy,” he said. “And if the people wanted to stay out later, then they could do that at my place. Hopefully, it would prove to be a profitable move.”

A manager at Scorekeepers, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the bar, said the bar would most likely decline the option.

“It kind of changes the dynamic of the social life around Ann Arbor … that dynamic we like at night with the mid-evening crowd works for us,” he said, alluding to the possibility of the crowd changing based on the new hours.

Campus Corner employee Joe Kraim also said his store was against the new proposition. He said the store could have trouble affording the costs of staying open longer. Kraim also cited a fear of the increased drunken behavior that could occur.

“There are so many people in town, it would cause a lot of problems,” he said.

Students interviewed last week were generally in favor of the bill, but had different reasons to support it.

Business junior Ben Mercure wrote to the Daily in an e-mail that he supports the new initiative because it would allow him and his friends to stay at the bars later.

“After waiting in line to get into a bar at 10:00 p.m. or later, the 2:00 a.m. limit often comes too soon,” Mercure wrote in the e-mail.

Mercure also thought the new bill would help Ann Arbor and the University shed what he called its “group-of-nerds stereotype.”

“Pushing back the closing time on area bars would signal that Ann Arbor is more committed to extra-curricular activities and would attract a more diverse mix of students,” he said, “something the University is always looking for.”

LSA junior Logan Carter Light wrote in an e-mail to the Daily that he supports the increased hours, saying “I definitely would (stay out until 4 a.m.) on nights where I don't have much the next day, but if I ever went out to the bar during the school week my hours at the bar would not change the slightest bit.”

However, Light questioned how successful the idea would be.

“Even at house parties students tend to wind down their nights and head to someone's residence around 1:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., so I don't know how beneficial it will be to bars to keep a fully staffed bar when its emptied out by 1:30 a.m. for another two and a half hours.”

LSA senior Ariel Jaffe said she thought the measure would be a good idea.

“I feel like a lot of people aren’t ready (to leave) when the bars close, they’re still packed,” she said. “I know from my experience people still want to hang out later.”