Should Bar Closing Time be Later?

Think of the economic benefits


Skippy’s Happy Hour

By Sean Murrihy

“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” At one point or another, we’ve all heard this line, or something very close to it.  Eventually, the bar has to close, and a night of fun, socialization, debauchery, or romance has to end. But why does it have to end so early in Milwaukee?  In the town that is known for birthing beer in America, bar close is set at 2:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Should the bar close in Milwaukee be pushed back to 4 a.m.? Yes! If done responsibly, the social and economic benefits would be great for the city.

I’ve been bartending for the last two years. I’ve done almost every job that there is in a bar, from bar backing to closing manager.  I’ve been going out to bars for the past five years. What I am trying to say is that bars are something that I know a lot about. I know how they work from top to bottom. That being said, I can think of no negative effects this would have on the bar side.

I’ve also been lucky enough to do some traveling. I’ve been to the great Beer Halls in Munich, Germany. I’ve seen the dazzling lights on the Las Vegas Strip. I don’t bring up these places randomly. You can sit at a poker table in Las Vegas at 5 a.m. and order your morning OJ with a shot of vodka. The drunk-driving rates aren’t higher than they are in Milwaukee. The fighting is not out of control. And do you know why? Because all of this is done responsibly. There are bouncers for people that get out of hand. There are bartenders that cut people off when they have had too much to drink.

Also, think of all the economic benefits that would arise. More people would need to be hired to cover longer shifts, thus creating as many as hundreds of jobs in the Milwaukee area. Also, the longer that people are allowed to purchase drinks, the more money is spent at an establishment stimulating the economy in that way. Also, think of all the people that it would bring downtown. People from the suburbs and surrounding area would be more likely to spend money downtown. Party promoters and event planners have several large convention areas in downtown Milwaukee, plus with extended bar hours, a night life that could at least equal if not rival that of some of the bigger cities. Bars make more money, bartenders and servers make more money, and the city of Milwaukee makes more money.

And I understand the concerns that some people have with extending the bar hours from 2:00am to 4:00am.  Giving people two extra hours at the bar would make it seem like Milwaukee County is not only tolerating drunk behavior, but actually encouraging people to stay out drinking longer and that there would be an increase in bad behavior (i.e. fighting, drunk driving, etc…).  Here is where that argument is flawed.  First of all, there is no restriction on when a person can start drinking. A person that drinks from 11 a.m. until midnight is much more dangerous behind the wheel of a car than a person drinking from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m.  Secondly, there is no way to police the amount of alcohol that someone drinks at home before they go into a bar.  There are laws that are in place already to combat some of these problems. No matter whether it is 10 p.m., 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., it is a bartender’s job to know when a person is too drunk, and when they need to be cut off.  That is not going to change just because it is a different time of the day.

There are a few ways, I think, that would ease the minds of local residents that live and work in the area where an extended bar close would effect. The bar/night club in question would have to get a special license to operate into extended hours, which would be very similar to a bar/night club getting a license for an extension of premise for special events.  This license would come with the caveat that there are many rules that would need to be followed in order to maintain the license. Examples of this would be: enough security staff on hand to make sure everyone is having a fun and safe time, an incident report system where bars that abuse this special license and over serve customers can have their extended hours license taken away from them, the license cannot be attained by a bar that is in an area that is deemed 20% residential, etc…  There are many stipulations that Milwaukee can enforce to make sure this is all done responsibly.

So would extending the last call to 4 a.m. really negatively impact Milwaukee in any way? I think I’ve said it enough, but let me repeat it in case you missed it. No!  While we can’t control what a person does, we can, to the best of our ability as police officers and bartenders, limit what stupid people can do to harm innocent bystanders that are just out to have a good time. While there will always be a few exceptions that try and ruin it for everybody, I wholeheartedly believe that this would be beneficial to all Milwaukeeans.

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