Public comments at a hearing Wednesday before the state Liquor Control Board in Kennewick drew two people in favor of eliminating closing hours for bars and nightclubs, and no one objecting to the proposed rule change.
The hearing, held at the Kennewick Police Department, attracted about a dozen people, including mayors of Pasco and Richland, and Kennewick's city manager, but board Chairman Sharon Foster was surprised at the lack of public input.
Brian Smith, spokesman for the state board, saidthere has been a strong response by email to the board, with opinions evenly split regarding open hoursfor bars and nightclubs.
"We are in the hundreds received," Smith said. Public comments will be accepted until May 1 by mail or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Police chiefs in Richland and Kennewick have taken a "no position" stance on the proposed rule change, advising their city councils that they expect no significant changes if the state decides to remove the 2 a.m. closure rule on serving alcoholic beverages at licensed establishments statewide.
The state board, which intends to announce by May 7 whether it will abandon or pursue implementing the change, would allow local counties and cities to opt in or out on allowing bars to be open 24 hours.
The change would not apply to liquor sales at retail outlets, Smith said.
Max Faulkner of Kennewick, who is a part owner at Joker's Comedy Club in Richland, said removing the 2 a.m. curfew would be good if only because his business wouldn't have to push out up to 300 drinking patrons all at once.
"It's a public safety issue," he said.
Chris Dauenhauer of Kennewick, who said he has worked as a bartender for many years all across the U.S., said the rule change would give the drinking public freedom to come and go, so there would be less tendency to rush out and get loaded with alcohol before 2 a.m. and end up driving away drunk.
"Longer hours means people don't need to drink before arriving at the bar," he said.
"There will be a learning curve, but once we get over it, things will settle down," Dauenhauer said.
Smith said a hearing last week in Vancouver attracted about 10 people.
The first hearing, held in Seattle, where the city, county and businesses in the nightlife district of Pioneer Square pushed for elimination of the2 a.m. bar curfew, attracted many more people, Smith said.
Smith noted that police in Vancouver and Battle Ground opposed the rule change, while the sheriff of Clark County said it would be a good change.
"I expected more opposition to it from law enforcement (in the Tri-Cities)," he said.
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