Last night's blogger meetup concluded with only the party boys left at the bar - myself and Ted Strawser of the sfpartyparty. We got into a discussion about extended closing times for bars that was proposed by Terrance Alan of the SF Entertainment Commission and how we would like to put some grassroots muscle behind getting the legislation through. That bars close at 2AM in San Francisco is not only silly in comparison with other major American cities (even in Atlanta they don't close until 4AM), but it creates a lot of problems as large numbers of drunk people spill out into the streets at the exact same time every Friday and Saturday night. Resource competition becomes fierce as everyone is trying to get a cab at the same time, more drunks are put on the roads as they look for another party locale, long lines stretch down the block as folks queue up to get into afterhours clubs, and, in general, a large number of drunken people hit the streets of San Francisco all at once.
I remembered that Britain recently decided to change pub and club closing hours so that bars can now stay open 24 hours a day, rather than having to close at 11PM (pubs) or 2AM (clubs). The press declared that this would result in crazy drunkeness and that alcohol industry profits would soar. Well, as it turns out, by letting bars set their own hours, resulting in a staggering of closing times (so to speak), alcohol-related violence and public disorderliness have substantially decreased throughout Britain, and the drinks industries have not seen any substantial change in their profit numbers. Here's an article in The Telegraph from last November that looks at statistics gathered a year after the change in licensing laws, and another from The Independent. So, based on the British experience, it would seem that many of the problems currently associated with bars and clubs in San Francisco, most of which stem from large crowds of people pouring into the streets at the same time, could be solved by changing bar closing times, or even giving bar and club owners the power to set closing times for themselves. We already have bars that open at 6AM (like Twin Peaks and The Mix in the Castro), so why not let the bars decide for themselves what time they want to close based on what is economically viable for them?
Ted and I were finishing up our drinks around 9PM last night, and as we talked about this, we realized that if we were in New York we'd probably be making plans to get some dinner, then maybe finish off at a club (if it wasn't a school night for both of us). Instead, by the time 11PM rolls around, most people are ready to settle in because there's not that much time left in the evening. The whole cultural complexion of this city could be altered by making this one change, and I for one would love to see what happens.