“It’s just scary.”
That statement was an accurate description of a bill before the Legislature that would allow bars to stay open and serve alcohol 24 hours a day.
Reggie Bollinger of Lincoln, a recovering alcoholic, made that statement at a hearing for LB330 held by the Government Affairs Committee Monday.
“Nebraska’s liquor laws are pretty liberal as they are,” Bollinger added.
He is right. Nebraska now allows bars to stay open until 1 a.m. Communities can vote to extend that time to 2 a.m. So far, 123 communities, including Omaha and Lincoln, and Douglas and Sarpy counties have approved extended hours, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
As far as having no “last call,” Nebraska would be joining New Orleans, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Miami’s entertainment district.
A majority of Nebraskans would clearly not want to join the “party never ends” crowd for many obvious reasons.
First is safety. Police forces now can be on the alert for drunk drivers near closing time. If there was no closing time, that alert time would extend throughout the night.
Lincoln City Councilman Roy Christensen testified that police departments would be strained during hours when manpower is lowest. The State Patrol estimated that to handle the extra hours of operation it would need $1.3 million more a year for 12 additional troopers.
The highest cost, however, would come in damaged lives. Drunk driving accidents would undoubtedly go up, leaving more lives lost and more people injured by people drinking and driving.
Allowing longer drinking hours would also lead to more drinking, increasing the number of people facing alcoholism and the incidents of binge drinking.
Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill said he introduced the bill because business owners should be able to determine their hours of operation.
“I believe the marketplace should dictate when a business can close,” he said.
The senator said most bars would chose not to remain open 24 hours a day because of the added cost. However, some may want the option for holidays such as New Year’s Eve or special events such as after concerts or Nebraska football games.
Larson is wrong. Not everything, particularly public safety, should be determined by the marketplace.
Closing hours for serving alcohol are not an undue burden on businesses. Instead the law serves an important public safety purpose.
The Government Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Larson, should kill the bill.