March 13, 2012
Liquor service hours could get flexible
There’s a little city 15 miles west of here that wants to change state law — a change that would affect businesses in Issaquah.
Seattle wants the Washington State Liquor Control Board to approve a resolution to allow for extended liquor hours. If approved, Issaquah would be able to dictate opening and closing hours for the service of alcohol at bars, restaurants and clubs or entertainment venues.
Seattle’s goal is to extend liquor service hours, but it could choose to go the other way. Seattle’s mayor has suggested that staggered closing times could help with public safety concerns.
While Issaquah doesn’t have a major late-night rush of drinkers hitting the streets at the current 2 a.m. service cut-off time, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever. And in Issaquah, where the nightlife is virtually asleep by midnight, city leaders could choose to cut off liquor service earlier. Eleven p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends would not be unreasonable.
If the Liquor Control Board agrees to the change Seattle wants, cities could create their own framework to license and monitor late-night venues, once the change is approved by the state.
For example, cities might choose to impose shorter service hours on those bars that serve patrons who leave drunk and end up with DUI charges, have problems with assaults among clients, or are cited for noise or serving minors. Cities could ostensibly put businesses with violations on probation, ultimately asking for suspension of their alcohol permits.
We’re sure that small cities across the state are not excited about the proposed change, primarily because they have enough on their plate without dealing with new ordinances effecting liquor sales. Keeping the status quo will be most likely for most cities. But down the road, the ability to do what’s best for their cities might become attractive to local police departments and city leaders.
It might be worthwhile for city leaders to weigh in now, while the liquor board is taking testimony.