Seattle's closing time subject of state liquor board debate


by KING 5 News

Posted on March 12, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 13 at 10:41 AM

SEATTLE -- Citizens spoke out for and against extended bar hours in a debate at Seattle City Hall Monday.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board's public hearing focused on Seattle's proposal to extend closing times and the idea of allowing cities to set their own liquor sale hours.

David Levinson has lived in his Belltown condo for six years. He sees a lot of drunks pour out of the bars at 2:00 a.m. and is against extending closing hours.

"Maybe two bars will let out at 4, or 5, or 6. Then when I go for my walk in the morning, there will be drunks on the street," said Levinson.

Drunken violence peaks in Seattle around what police call the "2:00 a.m. push out," when bars close and everyone must leave. Seattle Police support staggered closing times, saying the crowds will be easier to control.

"We're putting people out on the streets when other people are starting to come to work," said Rainier Valley resident Mariana Quarnstrom.

"We have seen the expansion of bars and taverns in Ballard, Fremont, Capitol Hill," said Seattle resident Billy O'Neil, who was in favor of the extended hours. "It's good for the economy, the city and for jobs."

The proposal comes from part of Seattle's Night Life Initiative. Already, Seattle has instituted noise rules, set up more late-night taxi stands and began training bar security bouncers. But one big concern is if Seattle extends bar hours, people will drive for miles to come to the city and party.

Levinson thinks police can barely handle Belltown trouble as it is now.

"Not enough police," he said. "Sometimes not any police."

The Washington State Liquor Control Board will hold public hearings in other Washington cities and make a final decision in May. Fifteen other states allow cities to set their own hours for liquor service.