Should Philly Bars Stay Open Till 4 a.m.?

Rep. Jordan Harris says a later last call could make the city more attractive to millennials.

Is the way to the hearts of Philadelphia millennials through their alcohol-soaked livers?

Rep. Jordan Harris thinks so — the Philly Democrat this week said he would introduce a bill that would let Pennsylvania bars apply to stay open until 4 a.m., an extra two hours beyond the current mandated close of business. He’s pitching the proposal as a bit of economic development aimed at keeping young millennials happy and in Philadelphia after they graduate.

“Philadelphia especially has lagged behind other major cities within a short radius as far as nightlife is concerned,” Harris said in a statement announcing his proposal, “and this bill would put our city on par with some of the largest cities in the country as far as having a healthy, vibrant nightlife.”

On the one hand, it’s true that Philadelphia sends its drinkers home relatively early: Bars close in 3 a.m. in Washington D.C. and at 4 a.m. in New York City — and in New York, those bars can stay open without serving alcohol before starting the new drinking day again at 7 a.m. That’s barely enough time to get sober! (Among nearby big cities, only Baltimore bars close as early as Philly.)

On the other hand: There are lots of studies researching what it is millennials want from the cities where they live. Transit options are high on the list; so are jobs and fun things to do. But two extra hours of drinking?


Ben Stango, a Philly millennial activist said the extra hours, in and of themselves, aren’t necessarily the point — but part of a larger piece of the millennial-attracting puzzle, alongside actions like keeping SEPTA trains running overnight on the weekend.

“I don’t think it’s a game-changing issue, but it’s part of a larger vision we should have as a city, to compete with world-class cities. It’s not about having an extra two hours, but to have the best night-life we possibly can,” he told Philly Mag. “It’s part of a larger picture of what we should be aspiring to.”

Now, before Philly’s neighborhood activists get panicky, they should know that Harris has them in mind as well: The pub across the street probably won’t get permission to stay open until right before you get up to start your workday. Under his proposal, bars that want to stay open until 4 a.m. will have to apply for an “extended use permit” — which a municipality can refuse if issuing it “would affect the welfare, health, peace or morals of the municipality or its residents.”

The idea, Harris said, is to steer the young adults to “designated entertainment zones” — big bars like The Roxxy on Delaware Avenue — and away from residential neighborhoods.

“Ideally,” he said in the statement, “this legislation would encourage people out of local neighborhood bars earlier and to these areas to continue their nightlife.”

Harris did not say when, precisely, he will introduce the bill in the Pennsylvania House.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.