Publishers Note — Government Regulations The Problem


by Jody Reese

Recently our mayor rode along with police to various downtown bars and nightclubs. At one of them he saw a fight and, at another, he watched a young man throwing up. Baines was less than impressed by this side of Manchester’s recent economic boom.

Thankfully, the mayor didn’t use his experience as an excuse for more regulation of the city’s watering holes. But I fear that others might, and that would be a mistake.

Violence and binge drinking are generally not the fault of bars and nightclubs. In fact, the problem is government regulation.

Alcohol laws in New Hampshire ban the sales of any kind of alcohol after 1 a.m. in bars and nightclubs (11:45 p.m. at grocery and convenience stores). Undoubtedly the 1 a.m. ban was intended to limit drinking and let folks get some sleep. But that is not what has happened. The result, unfortunately, is the potential for a late-night explosion.

An early “last call” compresses the time people have to drink and, in practice, encourages people to drink more, faster. The shorter drinking period causes some to get sick, as the mayor saw, and in other cases it can lead to violence. The mixture of people drinking and then being forced onto public streets before they have sobered up a bit increases the likelihood of violence and drunk driving.

Of course, what I call early closing time others call reasonable.

The measure of what is and what is not early shouldn’t be judged by those who don’t generally use the city’s nightlife options. Speed limits are not set by pedestrian concerns, but by the safe speed at which drivers can control their automobiles. Other measures are in place to protect pedestrians, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and stop signs.

The reality is that people (in every part of the country) usually don’t go out until 10 to 11 p.m. A 1 a.m. closing time artificially shortens the drinking time, and encourages people to drink a lot quickly. Even if officials sat in the bars and made sure that people bought two drinks, people would drink before they went out or in their cars before they entered the bar or club.

The problems that the mayor encountered could be solved by relaxing government rules. If clubs and bars could serve alcohol until 4 a.m. (or could serve it 24 hours a day even), people would likely spread out their consumption and leave the bars at their own pace, avoiding the mass exodus that happens at 1 a.m. and commonly leads to violent encounters.

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