Although keeping some bars open two hours later potentially could benefit students and East Lansing businesses, a bill proposed to do just that presents more problems than it’s worth.
Downtown bars could stay open until 4 a.m. if the bill, proposed by state Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, manages to pass despite a solid Republican majority. It requires 360-degree surveillance cameras and amped up security at those bars, and would give about $8,500 to local police to offset the cost of extra patrol.
Bars could apply to stay open later without approval from local government.
It’s meant to create more “metropolitan” cities in Michigan to compete with New York City and Chicago, but as Crunchy’s General Manager Mike Krueger correctly said, “We’re not Chicago.”
Later hours could help businesses in a city where there’s no lack of thirsty students, even as late as 4 a.m. But imposing a bill throughout Michigan ignores the needs and concerns of individual cities, including East Lansing.
City officials already are concerned too many people stumbling through the streets late at night is unsafe. Needless to say, council members and police are less than excited about the idea of dealing with patrons after an extra two hours of hitting the bars.
The bill could help night-owl students rushing to get a couple hours of dancing in before the bars close at 2 a.m., but for most people it will just mean an extra two hours to finish off a second Long Island at The Peanut Barrel Restaurant and down a few more shots. We want students to have more time to celebrate after a home football game, but not if it jeopardizes their health.
Even on a college campus, sometimes there is such a thing as drinking too much.
It’s unclear if staying open an extra two hours would have a major impact on downtown safety, especially with extra security in place, but it might mean students walk home later and later at night through more barren areas of the city. This is not ideal by any means.
Plus, later bar hours likely would mean later and later house parties, more noise complaints and a shift in a number of people’s sleep cycles.
Don’t enjoy listening to a party that’s still bumping music at 3 a.m.? Imagine how late some students would party if patrons filtered out from the bars at 4 a.m.
This likely would not present an issue for cities such as Grand Rapids or Detroit, but in a city populated with nearly 49,000 students, it could hit hard.
The nuisance is not worth it to help out a few bars that are not exactly lacking business, and it certainly will not transform East Lansing into a thriving metropolis that could compete with Chicago.
What might be the most dangerous aspect of the bill is its rigidity. What works for one city might not work for the next. It is foolish to apply the same policy to Detroit and a city such as East Lansing.
When state lawmakers try to use blanket policies across the board without considering the unique needs of communities, they discount the expertise and value of the local politicians voted in to do just that.
While it could be beneficial to allow local businesses to stay open later, Smith’s bill is not the best way to make it happen.
Changes like that need to happen on the local level with input from residents, businesses and the people who spend everyday examining ways to make East Lansing better.