Bar Owners, Police Wary of Extended Hours
Tuck School of Business students, from right, Kevin McCafferty, Alex Nadas and Eben Pingree enjoy a beer together at Molly’s in Hanover on Friday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Bistro at Six bartender and server Kristy Field talks with father and daughter Chuck Metz, of Thetford, and his daughter Abby after serving their drinks in Hanover on Friday. Field said that while the restaurant closes at 11 p.m., guests of the hotel are sometimes served later and there is little demand for a later closing. Bills in the New Hampshire House and Senate would extend closing from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Lorenzo and Karla Wilhite, of Thetford, take a look at the Murphy’s menu in Hanover on Friday. The couple said a later closing time for bars in New Hampshire would have little impact on them. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Emme Duncan, of Meriden, left, Keely Yaguda, of Los Angeles, Calif., and Kathleen Nicholson and Emliy Hamlin, both of Arlington, Mass., gather for a reunion of Kimball Union Academy alumni at the Canoe Club in Hanover on Friday. Canoe Club owner John Chapin said he wouldn’t object to the change, but asking his employees to keep later hours could have too big an impact on their home lives. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Hanover — A bill that would allow New Hampshire bars to stay open until 2 a.m. is being met with mixed reviews in the Upper Valley, with bar owners and police chiefs citing drunken driving concerns and others saying the region’s nightlife could use a boost.
“Some places could do more business,” said Nigel Leeming, owner of Murphy’s on the Green, “but it’s dangerous business.”
Leeming, who has operated the tavern in downtown Hanover for 22 years, said any additional profits from the extra hour wouldn’t offset the potential problems, and even if the bill passes he won’t change his operating hours. Last call is 12:30 p.m., Leeming said, “always.”
“I think you have to be more vigilant the later the night goes on,” he said. “Be careful what you ask for.”
A short walk down South Main Street, John Chapin, owner of the Canoe Club, said he’s also disinclined to stay open later, mostly because of staff concerns. An additional hour could destabilize people’s home lives, he said.
“We’re here long enough,” he Chapin, “and we have employees to think about.”
In March, the New Hampshire House approved a bill that would allow licensed bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., except in towns and cities that opted to keep closing times at 1 a.m. The Senate version retains the 1 a.m. last call unless a municipality specifically “opts in” for a 2 a.m. closing. A final resolution has yet to be hammered out.
Chapin said he is a proponent of free markets and local choice, and he doesn’t see the bill as “inherently bad.” But he speculated that bars choosing to stay open later would be flooded with intoxicated patrons coming from establishments that have closed.
“I want it to remain civilized to work here,” he said.
Around the corner at Everything But Anchovies, manager Danielle Paro, who works night shifts, agreed. She said people who drink late into the evening can’t accurately predict the effect more alcohol will have on their system.
“I can’t imagine that we’d do a major change in policy,” she said, “for protection reasons.”
While the town has not yet taken a formal position on extending last call, Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin raised concerns about drunken driving.
“From a police perspective,” she wrote in an email, “extending last call by one more hour could lead to more DUI issues.”
In Lebanon, interim Police Chief Gary Smith said he doesn’t support the proposal.
“It’s only going to result in more problems,” Smith said.
And in Claremont, Police Chief Alexander Scott said the extra hour will force his responders to stay on duty longer and result in higher operating expenses. The bill says the state “is unable to estimate additional overtime costs that may result,” and Scott said he doubts his department would ever be reimbursed.
Scott said he’s also concerned with the “opt-in” provision: If one community accepts the bill and another rejects it, drunken drivers might head for towns where the bars are open, creating an additional challenge for law enforcement.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” Scott said. “I think it creates higher-risk situations, and I’m not sure what the importance is for this at the state level.”
State Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover, whose district includes Lebanon, Hanover and Claremont, said he argued for the “opt-in” aspect of the bill because it protects local control and keeps towns involved in the decision-making process.
Pierce said he understands the concerns but doesn’t believe they’ll be exacerbated by an additional hour.
“Those problems will exist whether a bar closes at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m.,” he said.
Those looking for a little more pizzazz in the region’s nighttime entertainments said a later last call could be a good thing.
“I think the bill would help out the night life,” said Nate Ranney, 25, who had ducked into the Salt hill Pub in Lebanon on Thursday evening to grab drinks with a friend. “I think it would be fun.”
Ranney comes from Vermont, where bars are allowed to serve until 2 a.m., according to the state’s Department of Liquor Control. He said he was surprised at New Hampshire’s earlier last call.
“Sometimes 1 a.m. is too early,” he said. “It’s only another hour.”
One of the pub’s waitresses, Ashley Sonn, 25, said the crowd usually clears out by 12:30 p.m. on weeknights and servers are scrambling to get home. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, a 2 a.m. closing time could be good.
“Weekends draw larger crowds later into the night,” she said, giving servers the opportunity to earn more money.
At The Cave, a pizza joint and bar on the other side of the mall in Lebanon, Susan Shwarz guessed that the issue centers around age. When she was younger, she said, she would visit New York City on the weekends with her friends.
“We would go to the bars,” she recalled, “but they didn’t start last call until 3 a.m.”
In the Upper Valley, she said, bars usually empty out after the musical act finishes, and the place becomes a ghost town around midnight.
“If I were younger,” she said, “I would have thought bars staying open until 2 would have been the greatest thing.”
Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org