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add m8742 BC-MN-XGR-RepublicanCon 4thLd-Writethru 03-10 0458

Later bar-hour push for GOP convention hits early last call

Eds: NEW thruout with senator pulling bill.

By BRIAN BAKST

Associated Press Writer

ST. PAUL (AP) — The push for later bar hours during the Republican National Convention reached an early end Monday.

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A mere eight hours after a Minnesota state senator introduced legislation to give convention visitors two more hours of drinking, the bill was pulled from consideration.

Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee Chairwoman Linda Scheid, who was sponsoring the bill, withdrew it after hearing that police officials were nervous about the change and after getting mixed signals from people gearing up for the convention.

"That was quick," she said Monday evening of her bill’s fate. "It would have been a very short law, too."

The legislation due for a hearing Tuesday would have temporarily pushed bar closing time to 4 a.m. from the mandatory close of 2 a.m. at all other times. The later bar hours would have applied in the seven-county Twin Cities area from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.

The Republican National Convention will be held the first four days of September and the main activity will be at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. Some party officials will be in town earlier to conduct business prior to the convention.

Scheid, a Democrat from Brooklyn Park, said she hadn’t spoken directly with convention planners before introducing the bill. But she had conversations with people who thought it would have been fitting for such a high-profile convention.

She said Minnesota allowed later bar closings when it hosted a Super Bowl in the 1990s.

Matt Burns, a spokesman for the committee staging the convention, said the request for a bar-hour change didn’t come from the party. Teresa McFarland, communications director for the 2008 Minneapolis St. Paul Host Committee, said the local planners weren’t involved either.

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St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said he hadn’t seen the legislation and couldn’t immediately comment. But Scheid said law enforcement was nervous about the change because it would have enabled all Twin Cities bars — not just those near the convention site — to stay open late.

Jean Mulvey, executive director of Minnesota’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, said it’s not her group’s policy "to dictate hours" that bars should be open. She said the group would simply urge conventiongoers who drink to make sure they have a designated driver.

The chances of reviving the bill are slim. Bills that don’t get through policy committees by this Friday are considered dead for the year.

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