As expected, Mayor Mike McGinn unveiled his plan today to lobby the state for later bar service hours (details here), arguing that the measure could generate roughly $3 million for the city in annual tax revenues and create roughly 200 new jobs. McGinn is planning to present the proposal to the Liquor Control Board on August 31, with the support of the city council, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and the Seattle Police Department, all of whom were on hand at this morning's presser, all but braiding daisies in each other's hair to show off their mutual supportiveness.
"The 2:00 a.m. push out is a serious public safety issue," McGinn said, demonstrating that the proposal isn't just about increasing revenue or creating jobs. "It strains our police resources, and it's the most likely time for our officers to see violence."
"I support a vibrant Seattle nightlife," Holmes added. "This proposal will simultaneously boost the economy and enhance public safety."
When SPD Assistant Chief Mike Sanford was asked point-blank if SPD would support staggered bar hours, he said, "We do."
The city's united front is both remarkable and necessary when petitioning the LCB for this rule change—which would create the template for other cities to petition for later bar hours. The LCB is the most cautious, least sexy regulating board in the state—imagine tee-totaling turtles controlling a giant spigot of booze towering over Seattle. It took years of bitching to get the LCB to extend liquor store hours past 6:00 p.m. in most places. Seattle needs to take away any excuse for them to say no to this proposal.
And if the LCB decides to entertain the idea of a rule change, they'll open a statewide public input process, involving not only Seattle officials but other municipalities and law enforcement agencies. It's vital that law enforcement, at least, is on board. And that's where McGinn and his cohorts might run into problems.
Notably absent from this morning's presser was representation from other local law enforcement agencies—state highway patrol agents, or someone from the King County Sheriff's office, for example. These agencies are going to shoulder some of the burden associated with later bar hours, specifically, drunk drivers. I asked McGinn this morning whether these agencies were on board with the proposal and he neatly dodged my question. After the presser, I posed the same question to SPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. His response? "We've been in talks with them."
That's not very encouraging.
I asked McGinn if any other cities had expressed support for the idea—or if Seattle had even reached out to other cities. "That's on the agenda," he said. "We're hoping to get them on board."