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Early closing times detrimental to businesses

April 23, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com
For Springfield's enter-tainment district the other shoe may be dropping.
After many of the nightclubs and bars in the city being told they must end any entertainment at 1 a.m. — but they could keep serving alcohol until 2 a.m. — there was a rumor floating around last week that now city officials are considering changing the serving time to 1 a.m. as well.
Here is the statement issued by Mayor Domenic Sarno: "I believe this is something the city's License Commission is looking at very closely. I am in favor of an earlier closing time as it brings continued continuity to closing time and more importantly better overall public safety to visitors, our residents and to the business community."
The reason for the change in the entertainment license was supposedly to give patrons a reason to disperse early, hopefully preventing incidences that required police intervention. Now, the city is looking for "continued continuity."
I'm not a barfly. I'm not a partier. I don't stay out until 2 a.m. Despite my status, I'm willing to make a prediction with some degree of certainty: if the city changes its closing time the only good that will come from it will be to the neighboring communities that maintain a 2 a.m. closing time.
Mayor Michael Bissonnette has long expressed the opinion that downtown Chicopee, if there several more establishments open, could develop its own entertainment district. This change in the Springfield closing would be music to his ears.
I believe that people will lose their jobs and businesses will lose significant revenue.
The bars that cater to young people in downtown Springfield — the real focus of all of this effort — basically make their money from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Take away any time from this schedule and these businesses will suffer.
What will the mayor and others say if after they take this step and there is another shooting? How will the city react if the businesses simply close? What if we have an entertainment district and we don't have many entertainment businesses?
Honestly, will this move prevent young people from drinking to near excess before coming to the bars — "pre-gaming?" No. Will this move assist bar owners in making sure patrons are not over-served? Probably not. Will adjusting the closing time add to the financial health of the area, encouraging new businesses? I doubt that.
If you want a safer area, you need a greater police presence. Make sure young people aren't in parked cars and drinking before they go to the bars. Establish a sub-station downtown so there is a flow of cops in and out of the area. Develop a greater monitoring of how bars are serving alcohol and if they are pushing drinks to drunks, then haul them in to the Board of License Commissioners. Punish the owners who don't follow the laws and reward the ones that do.
The only thing that changing the closing time for these businesses will accomplish is closing a bunch of them for good.
***

Since I'm not a huge sports fan, my status as a red-blooded American male has been questioned more than once. I do have an interest in basketball, largely from my working at the Basketball Hall of Fame for seven years.
I went to a few Springfield Armor games last year, when they truly sucked — a technical sports reporting term, I'm told — but I had a good time regardless. The Armor folks put on a great show.
This year, the team made a complete turn-about with not only leaving its basement status in the NBA D-League, but also appearing in the playoffs. The games I viewed were exciting and fun.
Congratulations to the Armor players, coaches and staff for giving the region another fine professional team.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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