Bill proposes later close for all bars in city

Annapolis establishments would be open until 2 a.m.

May 16, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

An Annapolis alderwoman wants to keep the party going a little longer by allowing all city bars to stay open until 2 a.m.

The bill, sponsored by Classie G. Hoyle, Democrat of Ward 3, will be up for public hearing next month. Hoyle said it would even out the playing field throughout the city and help businesses increase foot traffic and sales.

According to city code, most establishments have to stop selling alcoholic beverages by midnight, but some along West Street and downtown in the historic district and other locations are allowed to remain open until 2 a.m.

"Restaurant and bar owners have said that it is very unfair that they have to close down early," Hoyle said. "Their patrons can go down the way to 2 a.m. establishments, and that's when the money comes in. Those establishments are bringing in more revenue."

Hoyle noted that additional revenue could offset the cost of installing sprinklers, which is mandated by the city for most new construction.

Of the 110 establishments in the city with liquor licenses, 45 have 2 a.m. licenses.

City officials said in the historic district, getting a 2 a.m. license is linked to whether an establishment is near residences. For instance, restaurants that border properties on Prince George, Randall and parts of Duke of Gloucester streets are prohibited from the later close.

A handful of restaurants in the historic district are making the push for the later close, city staff said.

The operators of Castlebay Irish Pub, which has a midnight close, declined to comment on the bill.

Residents say, enough already.

With 25 establishments that have a 2 a.m. close, Ward One has a preponderance of liquor licenses and more establishments with the later closing time than any other area in the city, they said.

A handful testified before the council in opposition to the bill and complained about late-night carousing, vandalism and public urination.

A staff paper prepared by the city mentions such complaints but adds there is no factual information to indicate whether the later closing times cause a greater degree of raucousness.

Many residents say they are staunchly against the extension. "We are absolutely opposed to this because it's incompatible with the quality of life in the neighborhoods," said Denise Worthen, president of the Murray Hill residents association. "Why we are catering to a few businesses when it's the residents of the city that make it what it is? Why aren't we paying attention to the needs of the community?"

Hoyle, who introduced the bill at Monday evening's city council meeting, said that the legislation wouldn't necessarily mean that all establishments will convert to the 2 a.m. close. It would merely be an option.

Emmy Harbo, co-owner of the soon-to-be open wine bar, The Purple Tooth, said that even if the bill passes, she has no plans to apply for the later license. "We feel like nothing good happens after midnight," Harbo said in an e-mail message.

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