- Christopher Frizzelle
- L to R: Deputy SPD Chief Clark Kimerer, Seattle Nightlife and Music Association President Pete Hanning, capt. nightlife David Meinert, and Mayor Mike McGinn
No topic was discussed more at the forum on Mayor Mike McGinn’s nightlife initiative, held last night in front of a packed house at the Hunter Gatherer Lodge, than the proposal to extend bar hours past 2:00 a.m. One part of the mayor’s eight-point plan, the proposal would stagger closing times or, perhaps, allow 24-hour alcohol service.
On board—at least tentatively—are the city attorney’s office, the Seattle Police Department, and several Seattle bar owners. But the decision to change bar hours won't be made by City Hall.
Alan Rathbun, licensing and policy director for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, identified the arguments that may compel the state to reject longer bar hours. “Does that [plan] actually encourage transportation by automobile when you don’t want it?” he asked. “What you don’t want to see is people who have drank too much get in their cars and drive to Seattle” because bars are still open. (He says it is possible to change service rules statewide or only in Seattle, but, he said, “the board would also have to answer the question, if it’s safe enough for Seattle, is it safe enough for Kirkland?”)
Ultimately, law enforcement agencies will have the liquor board’s ear, Rathburn continued. “We have asked the city to have conversations with King County Sheriff’s office, with the state patrol, and with law enforcement outside city.”
How are those conversations going?
McGinn said they haven’t happened yet. “We will follow up and have those conversations,” he said after stepping off the stage. He met with the liquor board only a week ago, when they gave him the directive to collaborate with the sheriff and state patrol. However, it bears mentioning that this is obvious outreach—to address an obvious source of contention—that McGinn hasn’t undertaken since launching the initiative in July.
But support inside the city is strong. “I want to congratulate mayor for being the first politician in the city to bring together the City Attorney, the Seattle Police department, and the city council to agree on nightlife regulations,” said David Meinert, owner of the 5-Point and a nightlife advocate. Meanwhile, SPD Dep. Chief Clark Kimerer said, "Our most difficult time is Friday and Saturday night bar closing… Fundamentally the benefit of having strategic closing times is to avoid that.” However, Kimerer added, “Any initiative that increases potential to use alcohol behind the wheel we will oppose.”
Can the DUI concerns be addressed? “That is what we have to explore,” McGinn said. “We may find out at the end that there are problems we can’t address.”
The event was hosted by Washington Bus’s Toby Crittenden and our own Cienna Madrid, who were both lovely.