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Opinion

by: Peg Krollpfeiffer

pkrollpfeiffer@my.madonna.edu

When I heard about the discussion of a law that extends bar hours until 4 a.m. and to allow alcohol sales on Sunday mornings, my first thought was that it is about time to give Michiganders the freedom of choice.

Having lived in countries where nobody dictates when it is time for you to go home, I was very irritated on my first night out in Michigan. At 2 a.m., the club turned on the lights, and the party was over. Now, almost eight years later I’m starting to get used to the fact that you go out earlier, and you are being told when to go home. However, I enjoy the freedom to choose when to leave a bar or a club every time I am traveling abroad.

In Duesseldorf, Germany, a recent decision cancelled the current restriction of closing the bars at 5 a.m. to avoid crowded streets from everybody leaving the bars at the same time. Therefore, as in many other German cities who had banned the “last call” years ago, it is the bar owner's decision what time to close their establishment and the decision of the guests when it’s time to go.

Although, I think it doesn’t really make a big difference because in many other countries with extended bar hours, people don’t go out before midnight, and the time spent at bars or clubs is similar.

If Michigan would allow the extended-hours to open the bars until 4 a.m., people probably would start going out later instead of spending more time at the bars.

The extended bar hour bill will probably raise the argument of drunken driving. But in my opinion this problem is not connected to the time of the day - people who decide to drive drunk will drive no matter if it’s 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., or even 2 p.m.

In other U.S. or foreign cities with extended bar hours, public transportation is usually better developed than it is in any city in Michigan. Maybe bar owners could spend some of the extra revenue to install a shuttle service from their location to neighboring cities, limiting the possibility of drinking and driving from that establishment.

A perfect example of this service has been established by a few restaurants and bars in Marco Island, Fla. They send a taxi to pick up their guests at home and provide also the return ride – free of charge.

Even though this is a special service, I am sure a lot of people would gladly pay a reasonable price for cab rides, if taxis were widely available in this area.

Besides possible business for taxi and shuttle services, extra revenue could benefit bar and restaurant owners, as well as extra-hours of work for employees could increase due to the change of hours.

However, while looking at the prediction of supporters of this bill who estimate that the extended-hours plan could raise about $13 million per year, I don’t understand why an outdated law like this is still in effect. This revenue would be used to partly fund the Michigan Future Plan, and all money raised into this fund would be dedicated exclusively for police and fire protection, scholarships, health care and libraries.

The idea is to charge businesses $1,500 for a permit to keep their bar open longer, sell alcohol until 4 a.m., and start alcohol sales at 7 a.m. on Sundays.

I also don’t see the point of still restricting the Sunday sales of alcohol in our religiously diverse society today. The first alcohol sales restriction on Sundays was part of the blue laws enacted in Virginia in 1617 to accommodate the Christian Sabbath. But the early blue laws also restricted work, travel, cutting hair, or even kissing on a Sunday. I’m glad most of the blue law has changed, and we are allowed to kiss or travel whenever we choose to do so, but why can’t we choose when to buy alcohol?

Meanwhile some states allow alcohol sales Sunday mornings, some Sunday afternoons, while some don’t have a sales restriction on Sundays at all.

I think that if somebody wants to drink on a Sunday morning, this person will find a way to drink.

After all, whatever the decision will be, I don’t think people will spend much more time in bars or all of the sudden start to consume alcohol on a Sunday morning, but everybody will have the choice to do so. And to me, that is what it’s all about – the freedom of choice.

 

Extended hours offer bar patrons more freedom