State bill could keep bars open later, but city officials skeptical
Ever go out for a few beers, stumble toward the clock and realize it’s already 2 a.m., but still need to pound a few more? A new bill could let patrons imbibe later into the night, but some East Lansing officials aren’t sold on the idea.
A new bill from state Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, would allow bars to stay open two hours later — a move supporters hope would make Michigan cities more competitive with metropolitan areas such as Chicago or New York City.
The proposal would allow downtown bars to extend their last call to 4 a.m., provided they have 360-degree surveillance cameras and a security person for every 50 customers on the premises. It also would give cities $500 from each new permit and $8,500 to local police departments, presumably to cover potential damages to property or increased patrol during the proposed additional two hours of liquor sales.
Current regulation prohibits bars or restaurants from selling liquor between 2:30 and 7 a.m.
Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday.
As the legislation currently stands, cities wouldn’t have a choice — bars could start operating later without local government approval. East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett said he doesn’t think cities would be able to adopt local ordinances overriding the law if it was ill-suited for a community.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for East Lansing,” Triplett said. “It’s bad public policy to create requirements that are the same for every community.”
Triplett said if the bill allowed communities to adopt the measure themselves, “that would be a very different story,” but he worries there could be a spike in the number of fights with people drinking later in the night.
Councilmember Kathleen Boyle said it “raises more questions than it does answers,” and that she doesn’t see the merits in offering alcohol two hours later.
“Isn’t 2 a.m. late enough? I don’t know the answer to that question,” she said. “It sort of makes me giggle frankly. I don’t really know there would be more of a metropolitan feel.”
The Michigan Municipal League and other groups also oppose it, citing the bill’s disregard for community input among the reasons.
The Michigan Restaurant Association also seemed unenthused about the possibility. The bill’s current wording would allow only businesses within designated downtown development areas to extend their hours, creating an unfair advantage for downtown bars, said Justin Winslow, the MRA vice president of government affairs.
Mike Krueger, general manager at Crunchy’s, said he doesn’t think it’s likely to pass. Even if it did, he said he’s not sure if people would stay out that late.
“We’re not Chicago,” he laughed.
East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said he doesn’t know if there would be a shift, but he did say it could be a nuisance with thousands of people pouring onto the streets later into the night. Murphy said the department already receives many noise complaints from families trying to sleep as late-night drinkers carouse.
“At four in the morning, I think that problem would just be compounded,” he said.