Another shot for extended bar hours
Despite increase in DWI arrests, city council approves one-year extension of law
By Jeffrey Pieters
Extended hours at Rochester bars will stay in effect for at least one more year, as a divided city council voted Monday to continue the practice.
The extended hours, including a 2 a.m. deadline for serving alcohol and a 3:30 a.m. closing time, were first approved Oct. 20, 2003. The previous closing time was 1 a.m.
At that time, the council approved the hours extension on a one-year trial basis. It approved the extension Monday on a 5-2 vote. Jean McConnell and Walter Stobaugh voted no.
Countywide law enforcement statistics show a 17.8 percent increase in late-night drunken driving arrests and a 63 percent increase in late-night traffic accidents in the last 10 months, the police department reported.
The report measured incidents that occurred between midnight and 4 a.m.
It compared that number to the number of like incidents reported in the 10 months before bar hours were extended.
In a memo to the council, Police Chief Roger Peterson warned against concluding that the increase in arrests and accidents were directly caused by extended bar hours. Differences in weather, and increased population and traffic may have contributed to the increase.
What's more, Peterson said, the later bar hours may actually be helping police by extending the "bar rush." Spreading out the amount of time drunk drivers are on the road, he said, may be helping police catch a greater share of them.
Some council members were not convinced.
"The evidence we have been presented with is not overwhelming, but it is sufficient to show this has failed," McConnell said.
Council member Bob Nowicki disagreed, saying "More people are going to get stopped. ... I don't look at that as a failure."
In the last 10 months, there were 324 drunken driving arrests in Olmsted County between midnight and 4 a.m. There were 238 accidents reported.
In the earlier 10-month period, there were 275 drunken driving arrests and 146 accidents.