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Senate Says Yes to N.H. Bars Staying Open Until 2 a.m.

Concord — New Hampshire is on track to let individual towns and cities decide whether to let their bars stay open until 2 a.m., an hour later than the current statewide closing time of 1 a.m.

The Democratic-controlled House Wednesday voted, 220-109, to concur with changes made by the Republican-controlled Senate last month to a bill first passed by the House in March.

That sends the legislation to Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, who has indicated she will sign it.

“As the bill as amended now allows local communities to decide whether or not to opt-in to the new last call, the governor is inclined to sign the legislation,” said spokesman Marc Goldberg.

The bill as it initially passed the House would have extended the closing time for bars statewide to 2 a.m., except in towns and cities that opted out.

But with the Senate’s changes, the statewide closing time would remain at 1 a.m. Towns and cities would be able to extend their closing time to 2 a.m. by vote of the town meeting or city council.

“The commerce committee considered these changes and agreed to them, feeling that they do, in fact, improve the options given to our towns and cities,” said Rep. Ed Butler, a Hart’s Location Democrat and chairman of the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.

But Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, argued the House’s bill was superior and, instead of concurring with the Senate’s changes, the House should have requested a committee of conference to negotiate with the Senate.

“The House could present its point of view — a much saner point of view, in my humble opinion — and the Senate could present its point of view, and maybe we could arrive at a better bill than simply rolling over,” Vaillancourt said.