City Considering Proposal to Change Closing Time of Columbia Bars
COLUMBIA - From 8:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday, the Roxy's in downtown Columbia is a place to go for drinks and music. Geeks Who Drink pub quiz, one of the bar's exclusive features, always brings the place alive in the night.
Owner Jesse Garcia said while customers were having a good time, he and his staff kept the bar in order and made sure customers were safe.
"While they are out, there are people watching them, making sure they are not over served," Garcia said.
Towards the end of the night, Garcia would give last call at 1:00 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 1:15 a.m. He said he hardly have problems with people who were too drunk to leave.
Currently, the Missouri law states that all bars without special permission close at 1:30 a.m. But the city of Columbia is considering a new proposal that might change that.
The proposal from the Missouri Student Association (MSA) is called a "soft closing," which suggests bars close an hour after stop serving alcohol. If the city approves it, the latest bar closing time in Columbia can be 2:30 a.m.
"The purpose is to give those that are there a chance to try and find safe rides home, give themselves a chance to sober up a bit," said MSA body president Nick Droege.
Droege said the proposal was based on the successful precedent in San Francisco, Calif. and several other cities that have Southeastern Conference schools.
But Garcia was not in favor of the idea. He said there was already a law that orders bars to have trained staff to see customers out at closing and make sure no one is wondering in the street with bottles.
"What we need is to enforce the law we have. More regulation is never the solution," Garcia said.
Jake Rush, assistant manager of Harpo's, agreed, saying his bar hardly got hectic near the closing time and the downtown patrol had already done a good job in ensuring people's safety.
Other bar owners in also shared their concerns about this new proposal.
Michael Weston, manager of Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, thought the measure was meaningless in terms of stopping people from driving while drunk.
"Even if you stop drinking, say at one, your blood alcohol content will continue to rise for the next hour or an hour and a half anyway," Weston said.
Matt McGee, owner of On the Rocks, said he didn't see the point of this regulation.
"That makes more sense if they allow us longer sales time, say, we stop serving at two and stay open until three," McGee said.
But the proposal was not without support.
"I think it's a great idea," Tim Horzmann, a regular at Roxy's said. "I think leaving the bars an extra hour will help cut down the number of drunk drivers we have, and ultimately, be safer for everybody."
Sgt. Candy Cornman, supervisor of the downtown patrol, said she understood the benefit, but she also pointed out the potential cost associated with it.
"Part of the state liquor license says that all alcohol will be locked and secured once 1:30 arrives," Sgt. Cornman said. "So there is additional cost to businesses because they will have to secure their alcohol and lock in their taps, whereas now once the doors are closed and locked, they don't need that same restrictions."
Sgt. Cornman was also concerned that an extra hour wouldn't assist in emptying the bar more slowly, because once the bars stop serving alcohol, people might not be willing to stay.
At the June 3 city council meeting, Mayor Bob McDavid asked the Downtown Columbia Improvement District (CID) to look into the possibility of this proposal. The CID will study Gainesville, Fla. as a model. The CID will discuss the issue of soft closing at its next meeting on July 9.
For more information about the "soft closing" proposal visit the MSA website.