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New proposal could push closing time to 4 a.m.

February 24, 2009

Students wishing to spend their nights as bar stars will have two extra hours to do so if a recent proposal by Gov. Jennifer Granholm is passed into state law.

Granholm made an announcement last week proposing bars be permitted to stay open until 4 a.m., a two hour extension on the current 2 a.m. closing time, in an effort to generate more money for the state.

The proposal also would allow bars to open earlier Sunday mornings. Currently, ?bars cannot begin serving alcohol until noon Sunday.

Under the proposal, they could begin serving as soon as they open.

Bar owners who wish to extend hours would pay double the standard liquor license fee.

Megan Brown, a spokeswoman for Granholm, said preliminary figures estimate revenue from all liquor licenses would be $24.1 million statewide if the proposal is accepted.

But for East Lansing police, longer bar hours would mean more patrols and more money spent to pay officers, East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert said.

“On weekends, we would increase our overtime pay,” Wibert said. “We generally put out extra foot patrols on bar nights.”

Wibert said making liquor available Sunday mornings probably wouldn’t affect police, but the extended bar hours could pose a problem of increased late night crime.

“Not many good things happen between 2 and 4 a.m.,” he said.

Some local bar owners said although it would be nice to keep bars open later, they find current hours to be sufficient and would rather push for Sunday morning sales.

“We’ve all come to the conclusion that all of us would rather … open earlier on Sunday,” said Joe Bell, owner of The Peanut Barrel Restaurant, 521 E. Grand River Ave. “We don’t really care about after 2 a.m. except for one or two of us. … (2 a.m.) is plenty late enough.”

Students likely would benefit most from later bar hours, since they make up a large portion of the city’s night owls, said Charles Atkin, chairman of MSU’s Department of Communication and a health communications expert.

Caroline Moon, a premedical freshman who works at a local bar, said she opposes the measure because it wouldn’t generate much extra revenue for bars.

“As the night goes on, less and less people come (in), and you just have to stay,” Moon said.

“You’re staying there for $2.65 to just stand around, even when it’s just open until 2.”

Atkin said an alternative way for the state to increase revenue would be raising ?taxes on alcohol, which also could reduce problematic drinking.

“The interesting question is, ‘What are the implications for problem drinking — is that the safest way to raise money?’” Atkin said.

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