Tonight Mayor Mike McGinn kicks off his Nightlife Initiative at Capitol Hill's Century Ballroom at 7:00 p.m.
I covered a few points of it here, but the most exciting (and controversial) part of the plan calls for extending bar service hours past 2:00 a.m. The mayor's office has commissioned a study that examines other cities where flexible liquor hours work and where they don’t. From that information they'll craft a pilot program to extend liquor hours that will be launched sometime after September, according to the mayor's office. But before the piloting process can begin, the mayor wants to have a two-month comment period to allow the public to weigh in on the nightlife plan in its entirety.
"We're hoping to reach a younger crowd," says Ainslee Close, a staffer who's worked on the plan. "Our goal is to engage people who otherwise don't participate in civic process. This is an issue that effects them, so I'm hopeful we can get their feedback."
The mayor's office has already approached a few community groups with a draft of the proposal to get their thoughts on the proposal.
"I'm skeptical it'll fix the problems we already have," says Richard Nordstrom, president of the Belltown Community Council (BCC), when asked about extending drinking hours in the neighborhood. "The proposal caters to bars and nightclubs at the expense of communities... [the mayor's office] has to prove that they’re not just extending those problems another few hours."
According to the mayor's office, city officials will be targeting precinct advisory councils and community councils like BCC for this public weigh-in process, and also post an online survey for the masses to complete.
It seems like a glaring omission not to discuss the new nightlife initiative in a bar. The mayor's office is blowing a prime opportunity to engage with their target population—people who actively invest in Seattle's nightlife—instead of the same active council voices who are willing to share their opinions on everything.
Here's what they need to do: Arrange for a few mayoral-sponsored happy hours at bars around town. Have stacks of surveys strategically placed next to boards of drink specials. Invite leaders from the Seattle Music and Nightlife Association and SPD to come and chat up the crowd and answer questions. Maybe get Police Chief John Diaz a little buzzed and goad him into air guitaring Sister Christian.
The mayor's staff has proven their skills at organizing town hall meetings; now they need to switch gears. Close is right—the 20-35 crowd doesn't participate in civic process because too often it happens in subdued meeting rooms and school gymnasiums instead of in places people actually enjoy spending their precious free time—like bars.