Drunks unite: City says no to later bar hours

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It’s common knowledge that drinking past 2:30 a.m. turns you into a gun-toting thug looking to shoot up the city and otherwise participate in riotous behavior. So says the outgoing mayor and City Council members.

So Wednesday, they put the kibosh on a proposal to study — study, not change — the possibility that it might not be all that bad if the city considers changing its 2:30 a.m. last call to 4 a.m., like it was in 2003 before they shortened it.

Officially, the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee decided to hold the study proposal, which came without warning last month from Council member Kwanza Hall. He’s likely to introduce it again next year when a new council takes office.

Mayor Shirley Franklin and other pols lined up against the idea as neighborhood and civic groups dissed it. Mary Norwood, who voted for the reduced hours in 2003, backed a 4 a.m. last call — with several qualifications — during her mayoral campaign. Look what that got her.

Hall says it would help bring needed revenue to the city through additional liquor taxes. The idea often pits neighborhood activists against nightlife-friendly gay folks and others who argue that they should be able to catch a cocktail and drag show whenever they feel the urge. Nearby DeKalb offers a 4 a.m. last call and even city tourism officials say our nightlife is boring.

What’s ironic in the ongong debate over bar hours is that while city leaders oppose a change, it’s the same administration that left out Underground Atlanta when they trimmed the hours of last call. They later allowed open containers at Underground, too. Why’s that? The city owns Underground and while a 4 a.m. last call might help that business, city leaders say it’s not good for the rest of the city.

The Loaf indicates Hall’s proposal might resurface:

Hall, who won re-election on Nov. 3 without opposition, wanted the city’s new mayor to present his or her findings to Council by Jan. 30, 2010. Some councilmembers, however, said his idea was poorly timed. They said the issue was political dynamite and too complex to drop on Mayor Shirley Franklin in her last month in office — and then be picked up by a new mayor and councilmembers at the beginning of their terms.

“I think [Hall’s] intent makes sense, to do a study, to look at it,” Councilman Jim Maddox said during today’s Finance and Executive Committee. “But to move on it right now with the Council changing, perhaps wouldn’t be a good time. He could re-introduce it. He will be here to do that.”

Until then, rest easy knowing that gay bars closing at 2:30 gives the police department’s Red Dog Unit some 90 fewer minutes to raid the place and force you to lay face down on a dirty bar floor.


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