A drink at all hours

One had to cringe when reading the New York Times this morning, which reported that Minnesota is considering a 4 a.m. bar closing time during the Republican National Convention. We might as well get use to it, Aunt Bea: we’re going to be the cute hicks in flyover country gearing up for the big city slickers a comin’ to town.

In the MPR story, there is the required prediction of doom:

“It’s only going to make it worse if it’s until 4 a.m.,” said Tait Danielson-Castillo, director of the district council serving the Frogtown neighborhood.

In this case, the concern is noise, something that would be hard to avoid with a few thousand delegates coming to town and three times as many journalists arriving to document their every drunken moment.

Let’s head to the News Cut Wayback Machine.

It’s May 6, 2003 and the Minnesota Senate has just passed a bill to allow bars in Minnesota to stay open until 2 a.m., ostensibly to keep Minneapolis St. Paul in the convention business.

Then Sen. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis, predicted doom:

And the only way the bars are going to make more money is if they sell more liquor. And if they sell more liquor, that means there’s more people drinking, and more people are drinking more. And more people drinking means more drunks and drunker drunks on the road. And more drunks and drunker drunks on the road means more crashes, more injuries and more deaths,” according to Skoglund.

A couple of weeks later, Gov. Tim Pawlenty — an opponent of a later closing time — signed the bill because another 50 state troopers were going to be hired.

So what happened. Fewer people died in accidents in Minnesota in 2004, and even fewer still in 2005. The number of those attributed to drunk driving dropped from around 40 percent (where it had been for several years) in 2003 to 32 percent in 2004.

  • Alison

    It seems to me that all of the Democrats would jump on board the proposal to extend the closing time. Let the Republicans get even more drunk and do stupid things that could be publicized. It’s the dream of Demopcrats everywhere.

  • bsimon

    Why change the rules for out-of-towners? If 4 AM is good for a bunch of ne’er do well political operatives, why is it no good for plain old Minnesotans? Do they think we can’t handle it, kindof like how we (apparently) can’t handle buying a 6 pack on Sundays?

  • Steve

    Why does heavy drinking at bars happen when all normal civilians are well into their night of sleep? They must be vampires to enjoy a “night” on the town that invloves a cab ride home at sunrise.

  • betty

    cringe is right. i am doing my best to not think mean and nasty thoughts about the republican invasion this summer, and this scheme is not helping. i might just have to get out of mn during the onslaught. some of my friends are looking forward to protesting, but the whole thing just makes me want to get out of dodge.

  • Silas

    Good for Minnesota!

    If this type of thinking keeps up we might actually be able to buy wine in a grocery store (maybe even on a Sunday, bsimon) .

    This is the perfect example if why this is such a great blog. Just look at the data.

  • van dyke

    Betty, I’m shocked. Aren’t your ilk all about tolerance. I guess it’s only tolerant if you agree with a liberal view of government, don’t smoke, and don’t drink after 1am. It’s too bad you liberals feel so guilty about having fun.

  • KK

    I think that protesting at a National Convention is useless these days when there’s going to be supermax security and about a mile between the protesters and the people you are trying to oppose. I think that people should use a later bar time as a prime protesting opportunity, get the republicans nice and wasted and then let them know what you really think about the war..

  • Bob Collins

    I think — don’t quote me, and if this is wrong, I never said it — the later bar hours are within 10 miles of some location in the downtowns.

  • Bob Collins

    KK, I think you’ll be surprised, actually, how close the protesters will be able to get… at least based on other locations.

    Keep in mind, though, that the goal of the protesters is really to get publicity. And the media will be hungry for a “story.” They could route the protesters through Ely and they’d still get the same coverage as if they let ’em in the X.

  • Alison

    Piggybacking on bsimon and Silas – You really have to love some of the MN alcohol laws (not to mention not buying cars on Sunday). We claim to have this separation of church and state until our religion wants force its rules on the rest.

  • Bob Collins

    The other thing about this bill is, it won’t really do much for a lot of bars. Hotel bars seem to be the social setting at night (late at night) for a lot of the delegates.

    And, it should be pointed out, the bulk of the visitors to the Twin Cities for the convention won’t be delegates and party officials; it’ll be the media.

    A lot of times, by the time you get your story written and produced, it’s 1 or 2 a.m., sometimes later.

  • Tyler Suter

    It seems that this argument has become more about whether later drinking hours – in general – is right or wrong. I think the argument should be whether it is right for us to make exceptions in order to cater to convention patron standards. I live in this city (actually Minneapolis) 365 days a year, and it seems silly that I must sacrifice my standard of living for some Washington chumps and their cronies.

    Conventions should be held in a city (i.e. a city should be chosen) because every major city should have the opportunity to host such an event; not because you are allowed to get plowed after a day of hand-shaking and stump speeches. Maybe we should legalize prostitution within 10 blocks of the convention venue as well; why not? Maybe Elliot Spitzer would even come to protest the convention with some of us. But seriously, we should be showcasing our city for what it is and not how happy we can make this traveling circus.

  • Silas

    I wonder if we could take the politics out of this if it were the Dem’s national convention.

    Making the city more attractive to conventions also makes the city more attractive for residents and potential residents.

    The point of this article is that there is not doom and gloom that came to be as a result of the 2AM bar closing.

    There was also no doom and gloom from indian gaming, the canteberry card club, or the state lottery.

    Just look across the boarder to see the horrible state that Wisconsin is in. They sell liquor on Sundays and in the grocery stores! What a bunch of godless heathens! It’s a shame that state has gone completely down the tubes .

    There is certainly a balance to be struck (nobody wants the twin cities to be Vegas or New Orleans) anything the government can do to increase the standard of living is going to help the community.

  • Jim

    Why not 24/7? Then no Closing Time for bars that chose to operate that way. No closing time lush hour either. Some people work nights, why not have a happy hour at 4am? The laws seem kind of arbitrary to me.

  • Silas

    Exactly, Jim. If the market bears it, let the bars stay open. If there’s no market the bars will close on their own.

  • bsimon

    Bob writes

    “I think — don’t quote me, and if this is wrong, I never said it — the later bar hours are within 10 miles of some location in the downtowns. ”

    I heard that too. Perhaps we have the same source. Seems like an even more idiotic rule. Either change the law, period, or don’t make the special exception for out of towners.

  • Bob Collins

    I haven’t been able to get a hotel list from the Republicans yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them are beyond 10 miles from the Xcel Center.

    Conceivably, a delegation staying in Bloomington could drink but someone assigned to a hotel in, say, Bloomington, (where many of the hotels are) would not.

  • http://n466pg.blogspot.com Daveg

    Really, isn’t the two hour shift simply a courtesy to your west coast visitors? Jet lag is bad enough, but having the bars close at what to you feels like midnight is insult heaped on injury.

  • Michelle M

    Say, what’s the liquor tax up to these days? ‘Spose that has something to do with it? Bringing in a little extra dough for the city and the state?

  • Kris H

    This decision seems to be a “no-brainer” to me and I can’t understand what all the hoopla is about.

    Let them keep the bars open. Why does everyone assume that everyone up that late is getting drunk. Many of these people at this convention are actually working late, late hours. When they’re done, they want to relax and enjoy their off time. Let them have their dinners, desserts and drinks when they want them. We need to give business owners opportunity to turn the revenues when these people are in town and capitalize on every possible penny.

    I just don’t get why this is even an issue. It’s just a few days.

  • Bob Collins

    Just found out that Minnesota’s hotel in Denver is more than 10 miles from the Pepsi Center.

    In Denver, by comparison, bars close at 2 a.m., unless they are designated as “after hours locations.”