Almost sounds like a joke: How do you solve the problem of drunken behavoir at closing time? Maybe eliminating closing time will help.
Actually, it might. Has it ever made sense that cities dump their heaviest drinkers out on the street at the same hour? (Recognizing, of course, that plenty of bars simply choose to close earlier for their own business reasons.) Maybe allowing them to stay open until things wind down, which may be later than 1 or 2 a.m., would make more sense.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn seems to be up for exploring the idea. He launched it today, not as a hard proposal but as the opening of a discussion.
It’s just one piece of what his group at city hall is calling the Seattle Nightlife Initiative. Altogether: “1. Code compliance enforcement. 2. Flexible liquor service hours. 3. Noise ordinance enforcement. 4. Security training requirements. 5. Precinct community outreach. 6. Professional development. 7. Late-night transportation alternatives. 8. Targeting public nuisances.”
Which taken together has a sensible ring to it, at least as a core set of efforts.
A report on the “flexible hours” (nice euphemism) idea offers some specific support through extended studies of places where the idea has been tried.
Vingilis et. al. (2008) argue that in two Canadian cities, Ontario-London and Windsor, there was a significant overall reduction in impaired driving and no change in the rate of assault charges during the 11pm-4am window before and after the extended drinking hours.
Hough and Hunter (2008) find that in England and Wales the shift in policy had little effect on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problem behaviors. They claim that the new law did not increase crime and note that these findings are different than in research findings in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. They note that it is difficult to compare previous research findings due to the variability in evaluation methods. …
Plant and Plant (2005) argue that the Licensing Act of 2003 in the United Kingdom was not motivated by proof that extended hours would mitigate the harmful behaviors of over intoxication, but rather it was supported by the assumption that harmful drinking behaviors are primarily motivated by “drinking against the clock,” that is, drinking to excess shortly before closing time (363). The study authors argue that increased availability of alcohol through extended hours can lead to increased consumption. They cite previous research in Australia, Canada, West Australia, and Ireland that asserts extending hours leads to an increase in casualty traffic accidents and binge drinking; however, the study authors point out that in the cases of Canada, where only a modest increase in closing hours was implemented, the extension had no significant impact on blood-alcohol-positive road fatalities. The authors point out that each country has a particular drinking culture. …
Bouffard et. al. (2007) found that Minnesota’s extension of the closing time for eating and social establishments that serve alcohol did lead to an increase in police stops for DUIs; however, they suggest that the increase is caused by the increased police response concurrent with the study and not increased consumption.
The conclusion: “Seattle is a model city to pilot a flexible hour system. Unlike many of the cities referenced in the research review, the introduction of extended hours for alcoholic beverage service in Seattle is part of a comprehensive, citywide nightlife management initiative that
addresses many of the concerns and potential impacts from the change.”