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Open 'til 3? ABC Board looks to allow bars to stay open later on home football game days

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BATON ROUGE - After the contraflow nightmare at LSU last weekend, the East Baton Rouge Alcoholic Beverage Control Board might have a solution: allowing bars to stay open for an extra hour.

The ABC Board has called a special meeting Thursday to discuss a 3 a.m. closing time for Class A establishments, so liquor stores and gas stations will not be affected. The late closing time will only happen for LSU and Southern University home football games this season, ending Dec. 31.

This idea is being pitched as a direct response to the gridlock created along Baton Rouge streets following the LSU and Southern game. ABC Board Chairman, Scott Wilfong, thinks the extra hour for bars will create less of a mad dash on the roads after the game ends.

This was in response to a little bit of what happened this past Saturday night with some of the traffic nightmares in Baton Rouge," Wilfong said.

Jason Nay, general manager of Fred's in Tigerland, thinks an extra hour on game days could help make the crowd more manageable.

“I think if we’re open later there won’t be such an urgency for everyone to be on the road at the same time and get to the bars," Nay said. “If it’s a slow, consistent group of people coming and leaving, I think it makes things more manageable all together.”

Once the ABC Board votes on this resolution in their special meeting, it will then be turned over to the Metro Council for another vote. Wilfong says, of the metro council members he has spoken to, he has not heard any opposition.

I’ve spoken with at least half a dozen members of the council, I haven’t heard any opposition to this at this point," Wilfong said.

The EBR Metro Council's next meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 21.

On Thursday, the Louisiana arm of Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a statement calling for Baton Rouge officials to vote down the measure.

Dear East Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council Members and the Alcohol Beverage Control

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) urges you to oppose any proposal to extend the current closing time for the sale of alcohol at bars or restaurants from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. during LSU and Southern football game days. The proposal under review by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board will have far-reaching public safety implications for our region as the problem of impaired driving is not going away.

MADD supports the uniform statewide cut-off time for alcohol sales. This uniform time helps
prevent barhopping to find one last drink at establishments with later closing times. Far too
often, the search for “one last drink” results in drunk driving.

Drunk driving deaths increased by 83% in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2020. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 18 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2019. Drunk driving deaths increased 83% in 2020, when 33 lives were taken due to drunk driving. Extending bar closing times will only make the problem of drunk driving worse in the Parish.

Examples of relevant research include:

-A study of 2009 drunk driving data from New York state found that “longer outlet
business hours were associated with more misdemeanor drunk driving charges... The results suggest that temporal alcohol availability may be an impelling factor for first-
time drunk driving...” (Schofield and Denson, 2013)

-Following the extension of hours in Ontario, Canada, a significant increase was found for
alcohol-related motor vehicle casualties in the Windsor region after the drinking hours
were extended. (Vingilis, McLeod, Seeley, Mann, Voas and Compton, 2006)

- In 2009, San Marcos, Texas adopted an ordinance that allowed local bars to extend their hours of operation from midnight until 2 a.m. in an attempt to reduce the alcohol-
related problems. Instead of a reduction, the results of research “indicate that the citywide ordinance in all likelihood exacerbated the problem, increasing the volume of calls for [police] service with respect to public intoxication in the downtown area as well as the number of driving under the influence of alcohol complaints throughout the city. (Chamlin and Scott, 2014)

Extending the bar closing time will have far-reaching public safety implications for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. Please do not advance this measure to extend the bar closing times to 3 a.m.


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