Extending Bar Hours Is the Worst Government Idea Since DROP

What has Blondell Reynolds Brown been drinking?

Since the start of the new year, 32 people have been murdered in Philadelphia. There have been more than 100 shootings. The city is on edge, a putrid stew of drugs, violence, and malevolence. Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have announced a far-reaching—though flawed—crime plan. And what is City Council’s big, bold idea for 2012? Extending bar hours in Philadelphia from 2 a.m. until 3 a.m.

To be fair, it’s not all of City Council. No, the idea was first raised in 2011 by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, whose proposals don’t normally repulse me. But this year, she and Councilman Curtis Jones have teamed up on a new bill to push last call an hour later into the wee hours. Brown says that by doing this, a windfall of tax revenue to the tune of around $5 million will help the imperiled School District of Philadelphia.

Drink more to save the children! We love drinking. And we love children. What could be better? Right?


Maybe when Brown is thinking about bars staying open later, she’s picturing the Center City let out, the high heeled, asses-hanging-out gals staggering out of Ladder 15 and Rumor, or the service industry folks leaving Amis after stopping for a couple of post-shift drinks. Letting them chug down a few more beers probably isn’t going to do much damage—other than to their livers.

But in spite of some of the more recent examples of downtown mayhem, Center City is not a hotbed of violence, at least not yet. There are something like 2,000 active liquor licenses floating around in Philadelphia, with only about 400 in Center City, meaning that another 1,600 or so are distributed elsewhere. Sure, many of these wind up in perfectly safe neighborhoods, but many of them do not. Many of them are spread throughout sections of South, North and West Philadelphia where the streets are smeared with blood and littered with bullet casings.

Is part of the solution adding an extra hour of intoxication to the mix? No. And if you’re not part of the solution, Blondell, well …

The Councilwoman has recently gone on the defense about the bill. In an interview with the City Paper, she actually makes the claim that based on the data she has seen, “if implemented thoughtfully, there is an opportunity to enhance public safety.”

I don’t need data and studies to tell me what a horrible idea this is. I’m relying on common sense.

First, she’s suggesting that City Council has the ability to implement anything thoughtfully. Whether or not that is true with the new Council lineup remains to be seen, but I have my doubts.

Second, she cites Seattle, Washington as her prime example, saying that when they “recently proposed their extension of hours, the Seattle Police Department came out as a strong supporter.” Good for Seattle. But you know what? In addition to better coffee, fresher air and greener trees, Seattle is also different from Philadelphia in one other way. The murder rate in Seattle in 2010 was 3.1. Any idea what it was in Philadelphia? 19.6.

Tell you what, Blondell. When Philadelphia’s murder rate is as low as Seattle’s, I’ll gladly support your bill, and once it passes, I’ll even buy you a shot at 2:59 a.m. to celebrate. In the meantime, put your energy and that of your colleagues into a plan to help save more lives, not ruin them.