Capitol Hill’s nightlife economy was well represented — when it came to the pro side of the argument — in Seattle City Hall Monday at a Washington State Liquor Control Board hearing on allowing cities to set their own times for last call.
“I encourage you to not listen to fear mongering — listen to data,” Dave Meinert of Big Mario’s and the Capitol Hill Block Party said during his statement to the board.
“The thing that would be wrong here would be to promote the status quo.” Meinert has also added his voice to CHS comments here if you’re looking for more of his argument.
Making statements in support of Seattle’s petition on the liquor service hours proposal were Mike Meckling and Jason Lajeunesse of Neumos, Meinert, and Travis Rosenthal, owner of Tango and president of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance trade group. The audience also had plenty of Capitol Hill flavor with representatives from Hunters Capital, brass from the Stranger, and East Precinct commander James Dermody in attendance.
As for the “data,” some of it was on display during Mike McGinn and director of the city’s Office of Film and Music, James Keblas’ introduction of the hearing in the form of a fever line showing a spike in “problematic events” reported by SPD around closing time. “Every weekend night at 2a our police officers face a huge challenge,” McGinn said. The mayor also provided recent examples of efforts by the city to shut down liquor licenses for problem clubs. Keblas said Washington would join 15 other states that allow local “last call” laws.
Safety was at the center of many of the statements by proponents of the proposal. Positioned as part of the city’s nightlife initiative, Seattle’s proposal would be part of a slate of changes — some already rolled out — to overhaul laws around bars and restaurants and optimize the area’s food and drink economy:
The City of Seattle is examining the potential impacts of a shift from the current 2:00 am closing requirement for alcoholic service beverage licenses to a “flexible hours” system. The change is being considered in response to the current system, which by unintended consequence encourages overindulgence while simultaneously pushing thousands of patrons on the streets with limited resources to effectively manage the activity. By transitioning to a flexible hours system, there may be an opportunity to improve Seattle’s quality of life by eliminating issues of public safety and nuisances associated with current closing times.
Stephanie Tschida of the East Precinct Advisory Council was one of several speakers who told the board the proposal would be bad for Seattle. You can read more of the EastPAC’s argument here.
While the anti camp wasn’t quite as bad as was portrayed in this account by the Stranger, there were a few moments of “fear-mongering” highlights:
- One speaker warned that extended hours would bring people from Auburn to the city
- Another speaker warned the board that Washington is on way to becoming most deregulated state in nation when it comes to liquor
- One warned that bar patrons would use “social media” to figure out which bars are serving after 2a
There were also some challenging points raised. Derek Franklin of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention spoke against the proposal and talked about the potential danger of new laws that would push last call from 2a into the morning commute. Other speakers warned that later last calls would mean later noise and disruptions and that pushing back service hours would only push back the binge rush of last call to a different hour than 2a.
The Seattle hearing was one of four scheduled by the board as part of the process to consider Seattle’s petition to allow extended liquor service hours. Liquor Board chair Sharon Foster said she expects a decision by May 7.
You can still add your feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Mario’s — and several other Capitol Hill area bars and restaurants — are CHS advertisers.