State Liquor Control Board members were in Seattle Monday to hear testimony about possibly letting the city extend bar hours.
State Liquor Control Board members told a Seattle audience Monday that they need data on the likely consequences of later bar hours, not just anecdotal reports.
And they said they’ll be looking at the potential impacts — including the risk that Seattle would attract people from surrounding cities and counties if the current 2 a.m. liquor cutoff is relaxed here, but not in other places.
“We are a state agency. We are concerned about migration,” said Ruthann Kurose, one of three Liquor Control Board members who listened to about 2 ½ hours of public testimony at Seattle City Hall.
The board has scheduled hearings in Vancouver, Kennewick and Spokane through April on Seattle’s petition to the board to allow extended service hours. If the board approves the request, Seattle would then develop a legal framework to allow bars and clubs to serve liquor later.
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Chairwoman Sharon Foster said the board hopes to make a decision by May 7.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn told the board that the city wants authority to launch a pilot project that would allow some bars to remain open after 2 a.m. with strict requirements that would include security and training of nightclub staffs.
The mayor’s office prepared a report for the board on the experience of other cities, states and counties in extending liquor hours. The report concluded that the most important element was how licenses and bars are controlled, managed and regulated.
But the board hasn’t yet undertaken its own research, Foster said.
McGinn said the extended hours represent just one part of his Nightlife Initiative, which seeks to enliven Seattle’s music and entertainment scene while also addressing the violence and disorder that often accompanies the 2 a.m. bar “push-out.”
The city presented police data that show incidents at nightlife establishments spiking to almost 90 between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., while averaging about 10 at all other times.
“Our primary concern is about public safety, but it is also about economic development,” the mayor said. “We want Seattle to become a more vibrant, global city.”
The director of the city’s Office of Film and Music, James Keblas, told the board that if 100 establishments added later service hours, that would produce $26 million in new revenue and about $2 million in new taxes for the city.
Neighborhood activists and advocates for youth objected to the proposal, saying it would mean more alcohol consumption, more impaired driving and more demands on law enforcement.
“When communities increase access hours, the reality is you’re going to have more harm,” said Derek Franklin, a board member for the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.
Hal Colombo, a Fremont resident, said staggered bar hours will extend what he called the “woo-hoo crowd,” noisy patrons spilling onto the street when neighbors are trying to sleep.
“You’re never going to control it. We don’t have enough money for police officers now,” Colombo said.
But leaders of the entertainment industry and bar owners told the board that the binge drinking that often precedes the 2 a.m. closing, as well as the street noise and disorder, would be reduced if liquor service were extended.
“Young people are coming out later. This would allow us to not have that binge, that push,” said Pete Hanning, owner of the Red Door in Fremont and the past president of the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association.
“The issue of nightlife and communities is not going away.”
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.