House passes bill allowing bars to stay open extra hour
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 02:03
The New Hampshire House passed a bill on Thursday, March 21 that would allow bars to stay open until 2 a.m., an hour after the state’s current limit. The bill, however, leaves the final decision concerning bar hours up to individual communities.
“(House Bill 575) now crosses over to the N.H. Senate. If ultimately passed by both branches of the legislature and signed into law, which has yet to occur, the town of Durham will address the local opt-out authorization,” said Todd Selig, the town administrator for Durham. “As of today, only the N.H. House has taken action.”
Selig said he believes the operational costs for bars and the problems this bill would bring up for police departments outweigh the sales gained from the later hour.
“From a business perspective, the quantity of sales that would occur within this one additional hour of operation would seem de minimus (trivial) when operational costs are considered,” Selig said. “From a municipal perspective, the quality of a customer’s condition at one o’clock in the morning becomes problematic for local police departments.”
Problems would be especially present in towns with larger student bodies such as Durham, Plymouth, Keene, Rindge and Hanover.
“There’s a plus side and a minus side: if it’s open later, people are going to be able to drink more, but it’s not going to matter because people are going to drink at home,” said senior Sarah Mercier. “I don’t think it will change anything ... It’s just an hour.”
Supporters, however, see the bill as a financial opportunity. Rep. Emily Sandblade, R-Manchester, was one of the supporters of House Bill 575. She believes that New Hampshire is losing business to other states because of the closing times.
“New Hampshire is one of the few states in the country where these establishments close at 1 a.m.,” Sandblade said in a Union Leader article published on March 17. “There are 47 states where they stay open until at least 2 a.m. We are losing business along the border areas, especially near Massachusetts.”
Other supporters of the bill include senior Risa Hoffman and junior Abby Lawrence.
“I would think it would be great because it would allow for the bars to get more business later,” Hoffman said. “I would stay out later and other people would, too. Bars in Boston stay open later so it would be good for businesses in N.H.”
Lawrence agreed and added, “I turned 21 in October so I still haven’t been to the bars that much... that would be really cool because people are still out around 1 and 1:30 (a.m.).
Some students disagree, saying that later hours would cause too many problems.
“Considering I work at the bar, I’m not exactly thrilled,” said Libby’s Bar and Grill doorman Matt Lafreniere. “I see the worst of the worst behavior from people who drink too much, and as far as I’m concerned, the bar being open even later will foster that stupid behavior that people like me will have to deal with because people have an extra hour to get drunk in public.”
Even if the bill passes in the Senate, Durham may decide not to keep the bars open later, according to Selig.
“It is the perspective of this community that persons leaving on-premise sales locations at 2 a.m. will be more impacted by alcohol consumption and fatigue,” Selig said. “All of which will increase the likelihood of poor decision-making as they attempt to find their way home whether on foot, as in the case of Durham, or by vehicle in other regions of the state.”