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.