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Friday, July 17, 2009

Madison Bars Open All Night: A Proposal

Madison's bar owners want permission to sell alcohol for another hour each night, and our city leaders seem inclined to go along.

As spokesperson for the Lake Herman Temperance Union, I feel obliged to question the wisdom of selling any more hooch in Madison. Folks here and throughout the state already have no trouble getting more than enough alcohol. On the Facebook edition of my Wednesday commentary on this issue, police-officer-turning-restaurateur Mark O'Loughlen says keeping our local taps open 'til 2 a.m. will only exacerbate our problem with local drunks.

I have to wonder what market remains for drinking at 1 a.m. At that hour, I can't imagine there's a surge of customers who are just getting started. Movies, ball games, and other evening events generally wrap up by 9 or 10 p.m. I'm willing to bet that a majority of folks in the bar at 1 a.m. asking for more have already been at it for a while, and a majority of the alcohol consumption that would take place after 1 a.m. is probably excess and unwise consumption.

But let's be charitable. Let's assume there really is a great and wholesome demand for the opportunity to socialize after 1 a.m. (after all, a great community is built on conversation... at the bar... in the middle of the night...). Let's suppose the city can serve a vital public interest by helping Ted Hosselkus at Stadium Sports Grill make $55K to $60K more each year. And let's suppose we buy the bar owners' argument that we can promote public safety by keeping the bars open longer.

Fine. Let's do it. Let's keep the bars open all night long. Give people the chance to socialize all night. Let 'em wait 'til sunrise to drive home in daylight.

And after 1 a.m., serve nothing but pop and coffee. Give everyone a chance to sober up before getting behind the wheel to head home. After all, we don't need alcohol to have a good time, right?


  1. So the commentator who gives a candidate a hard time because of his religious views is in favor of blue laws which arose as a result of religious standards?

  2. Ironic, isn't it? I'm also whole-heartedly in support of keeping Madison's ordinance outlawing liquor sales on Christmas. Of course, the Pilgrims were religious, and I'm still in favor of Massachusetts.

    By the way, Thad's off the hook on patriarchy, since he appears to draw a clear line between church and state on that issue.

  3. The problem is drunk driving. Why not address that directly? How about we allow the bars to stay open later, but add an additional tax that is used to pay for people to drive people home? There are existing services in more progressive areas of the country that will provide a driver that will drive both you and the car home. That driver is then picked up and returned to downtown to pick up more cars.

    The really sweet services give their drivers a small gas powered bike that they take with them as they drive the patron's car home so they can get back on their own.

    Job creation and longer bar hours for more socialization. WIN WIN!

    Heck, this might even decrease our need for tons of policing at night rates that would save us additional cash.

  4. Tony,

    You have a great idea, and you are correct that drunk driving is a serious problem, however the effects of alcohol abuse are far more reaching than just getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated.

    Statistics show that law enforcement's busiest time of day is when the bars close. These calls are vandalism, domestic disturbances, disorderly conduct, and assaults, in addition to drunk driving. Contrary to what many people may think, the police are usually tied up with these other issues at bar closing and can't focus on the drunk drivers.

    Madison has plenty of these problems at bar closing already, and keeping them open for another hour is just going to make the problems worse.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that drunk driving is a serious problem, but there are other issues that go along with this that are not being discussed. For some reason people think the only crime they can commit while they are drunk is drunk driving, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

    Mark O'loughlen


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