In a city not known for political profiles in courage, the Licensing Board last week delivered what some bar owners referred to as a death blow when it refused to tamper with the roll-back of hours put into effect during the previous administration.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, in a bold but highly political move, supported the measure sought by the bar owners and made that known to the police chief as well as to the members of the board.
By siding with the city’s bar owners, many of whom have been struggling since the 1-2 a.m. drinking hour was taken away, the mayor fulfilled a campaign promise to do just that.
However, her stance on the matter rankled the police chief and more than a few councilors, who all pointed out that crime statistics have improved since the roll-back and that returning to the post did not seem to be good public policy.
Police statistics revealed more than 900 fewer calls relating to soft and hard crimes last year than the year during the roll-back hour, a testament to the advantages of the roll-back.
However bar owners and restaurant owners with liquor licenses proclaimed they are victims of bad bars and that good establishments were being punished for the behavior of bad establishments and that it isn’t fair.
The police said such statements were specious.
Police said they felt no compelling reason to restore the lost hour of drinking time.
Licensing Board Commissioner Richard Coppinger, brother of the police chief, was firm about the issue and did not budge at the hearing.
Commissioner Michael Phelps echoed the chairman’s beliefs.
Bar and restaurant owners have tended to take the roll-back as a personal affront – and more – a nail in the coffin of a liquor serving industry that has changed dramatically.
Because of strict drunken driving laws and due to the high cost of liability insurance, bar owners are finding it harder and harder to make a profit in the face of rising prices and falling business.
In the past decade, drinking out has dropped dramatically – and during the recession, a lack of disposable income has also impacted bar owners.
The roll-back was a last straw locally for many struggling locations.
Quite often, the last hour of drinking – the so-called – last call produces the single biggest hour of revenue.