Friday, August 3, 2007

Curbing yobbish behaviour

Yesterday, a commenter on my blog post about the closing of Opulence Ultra Club requested that I weigh in with my thoughts on a later closing hour for bars. The commenter actually provided two links that do a pretty good job of summarizing the arguments pro and con. Generally, supporters of later closing hours (or none at all) think that extended hours would diffuse the "last call" frenzy, whereas opponents think that longer hours simply mean more intoxication and abusive drinking.

I think it's pretty obvious that longer hours means more consumption. You're not going to stay open longer and pay labor if you aren't selling more product. Duh.

Proposals for a later closing hour have been in the Nebraska legislature twice in recent years, and I've been at the General Affairs Committee testifying in opposition. My opposition is based on the dynamics of police work: a later closing hour moves our peak workload period forward, and makes it more difficult for us to get people off duty before the daily cycle starts repeating.

The lull between the end of the nighttime activity and the beginning of the morning rush has gotten shorter and shorter during my career, and a 2:00 or 3:00 AM closing time would mean that we'd have to staff more officers during the time we can now throttle back a little. If you must have more officers on duty at 3:00 AM, you will inevitably have fewer on duty at other peak times during the day.

The theory floated by supporters of extended hours is that bar break would be anti-climatic if the drinking crowd dribbled out over a two hour period, instead of all at once. This theory sounds plausible to the newspaper-reading, politically-active, socially-conscious citizens who arise for their 5:30 AM workout before getting the kids off to day care and to their job by 8:00 AM. The theory, though, is based on the faulty notion that a significant portion of the inebriated nimrods regaling the countryside with the slurred and exaggerated tales of their sexual exploits would leave before the closing hour. Not necessarily the case. A healthy chunk of the bar break drunks are sleeping until mid-afternoon, as they leisurely pursue their degree in General Studies on the six-year plan, make their way to the part-time evening gig in the telemarketing cubicle, and prepare themselves for their next career supersizing your order.

I have talked with fellow police chiefs in other States that have later closing hours. I have visited many other cities with major universities in my role as co-chair of NU Directions. What I see and hear has convinced me that the theory is at odds with the reality. Bar break is still bar break, whether it's 1:00 AM in Lincoln, or 2:30 AM in Madison. If it's an hour later, Beavis has just had another pitcher of beer.

There is a giant naturally-occurring experiment underway right now on this very issue. Until last year, British pubs closed at 11:00 PM. I personally witnessed the last call phenomenon in London, on my only lifetime international trip in 2005, courtesy of the Jill Dando Institute at University College London. The conference committee took me to dinner, and we were eventually evicted by the Italian wait staff, who turned up the lights at 10:45 PM and shot us The Look a few minutes later. It was odd to see the bar break shenanigans so early, but I thanked my hosts for getting me tossed out of a bar for the first time in 35 years. The British drink like fish, and they have huge bladders--there are pubs everywhere, and no toilets anywhere.

With all the same arguments and debates, Parliament decided to drop a mandatory closing time altogether. The time-series opportunity this radical change creates will be fodder for a lot of researchers, and the early returns are beginning to appear in the press and academic journals. The current spin seems to be primarily on the whoops! side.


Anonymous said...

Bar time in Madison is 2:00 am...Duh!

also we start our night at 10:00, what time do kids start out in Lincoln?

Mad-Town Kid

john said...

"A healthy chunk of the bar break drunks are sleeping until mid-afternoon, as they leisurely pursue their degree in General Studies on the six-year plan, make their way to the part-time evening gig in the telemarketing cubicle, and prepare themselves for their next career supersizing your order."

I understand you are making a generalization here and not intending to include every bar patron in this statement, but I find it extremely condecending. I am a UNL student who frequents the bars on O and is pursuing a competitive degree in engineering, while working part time for a highly regarded engineering firm in town, and being involved on campus. I know a great deal of students exactly like myself.
This is not the first occasion on which I have read or heard you generalize college students in such ways and I find it irritating. Being the Police Chief in a college town means understanding that the University is a great part of this town and understanding that its students are not all trouble for your dept.

Tom Casady said...

Hmmm. Madison Municpal Code 38.06(7)(b) would indicate that bars close at 2:30 AM on weekends--consistent with the first-hand account linked in my post. Double Duh.

I'll be there in late September to make a presentation at the International Problem Oriented Policing Conference on dealing with party houses, so I'll try to confirm that while I'm there.

The lines generally don't form in Lincoln much until 10:30 or 11:00 PM, unless it happens to be after a home football game.

Tom Casady said...

Come on, John, lighten up. I'm obviously being a little facetious here, but you know full well that the all-night-every-night stool sitters are a special lot--not at all representative of the "typical student" who is paying the lion's share of his or her tuition, working too many hours, can't afford Jagermeister shots, and is too busy squeezing in studying to go out to Brothers every night until closing.

This is my Alma mater, too, and I worked my way through two degrees while supporting myself and a family. Only a tiny subset of students live this ridiculous party-hardy lifestyle, and it galls me that students allow themselves to be pigeonholed--so thanks for speaking up.

I've got a long record of publicly speaking out against the negative stereotype of college students that the binge-drinking crowd perpetuates. You ought to be annoyed at the idiots who are puking in the planters and pretending to be real students.

Anonymous said...

Being a recovering college engineering student myself, I didn't take any offense at today's blog entry - because I actually read what was written. It was plain as can be that he was casting well-deserved aspersions on the 6-year general studies crowd, the aimless wanderers that still haven't matriculated after half a decade. That's what he wrote wasn't it? Yes, it was.

That gaggle only goes to UNL because it happens to be close to the bars. They deserve every verbal jab and printed slam that comes their way.

I thought today's entry was hilarious, really on the mark, like Sam Clemens with a badge.

Anonymous said...

The last thing this town needs is for the bars to be open later. As an officer downtown dealing with thousands of moderate to heavily intoxicated people, there is no way anyone is going to leave early. As it is now, once the bars move the people out they stay on the sidewalk until almost 3 am. With calls for service coming in all over the Center team area, often I am standing alone amongst the masses. Of course, once all those seekng a good time downtown head off to the after hours parties then more and more calls come in caused by drunken behavior.

Oh, one more thing, the Chief is right. The Brits do drink like fish. I foolishy tried to keep up on my visit years ago.

Anonymous said...

We should also consider cutting the football season back because people drink more on game days.

Anonymous said...


Good info and funny, too. As an NU alum, I recall similar debate during my undergrad days. I've pondered another possible pro to a later closing time. It seems there would be a decreased number of after-hours house parties and, hence, fewer impaired drivers in neighborhoods after close. This is my theory, and not based on evidence. Could you comment or provide data that addresses this?