Originally created 04/03/02

Bar hours long enough



Nothing good can be said about the proposal to extend Augusta's downtown bar hours to 4 a.m.

But, unless there is a public outcry, it appears the Augusta Commission is on the verge of approving longer hours.

The proposal was originally made by a bar owner who told the Augusta Commission that extending the hours would help the city out of its budget crisis by providing more excise tax revenues.

A subsequent city study showed that those two extra hours would contribute just $32,000 to city coffers, and establishing a downtown district for extended hours would reduce that amount to under $9,000 a year - not nearly enough to pay for the additional police protection that would be required.

Commissioner Andy Cheek has decided, however, that Augusta is just too parochial and that it needs to be a grown-up city with grown-up bar hours.

But there are plenty of cities, both big and small, that limit bar hours to 2 a.m. or earlier. Here are a few of them: Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Tampa, Orlando, Salt Lake and Green Bay. In fact, 71 percent of cities with major league teams have "last call laws" set before or at 2 a.m.

Other cities that have extended bar hours are trying to rein them back in, as the longer hours have created too many social problems like drunken driving.

Cheek says the longer hours should be done on a trial basis, but most folks know these things take on lives of their own. Once you set up a special entertainment district, it will never go away.

The commission needs to hear loud and clear from residents who think bar hours should remain as they are and that longer hours would only invite trouble.