A bill introduced in Nebraska recently would allow bars to stay open indefinitely and liquor to be sold at all hours of the day and night. Judging by the lack of interest the bill appears to have though it may go no further.
During a recent session of the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, was opened up for discussion. If passed, the bill would dramatically change the law in the State of Nebraska regarding when alcohol can be sold. If passed, bars would be able to close whenever they chose – or not at all. In addition, the bill would also cover public commons areas designated as entertainment districts, such as Lincoln’s Railyard entertainment district, and to retail alcohol sales.
Sen. Larson indicated that he introduced the bill as a way to allow bars to decide when (or if) they close. While Sen. Larson says he doubts many bars would choose to stay open all night as a general practice, eliminating the mandatory closing time would allow bars to remain open all night, or to close much later, on special days such as New Year’s Eve. “The marketplace could and should dictate when establishments close for the day,” he said in testimony to the General Affairs Committee. “… I believe in personal responsibility and not over-regulating our businesses.” Currently, bars must close at 1:00 a.m. in Nebraska; however, that time may be extended until 2:00 a.m. in any city with a supermajority vote of the city council, village or county board.
At the hearing, no one spoke up in favor of the bill. Opponents of the bill are numerous though and include the city of Lincoln, the League of Nebraska Municipalities and Project Extra Mile, which works to stop underage drinking. One concern expressed by opponent of the bill is that Nebraska lacks the public transit services offered in other cities where bars remain open all night such as Las Vegas and New Orleans. The concern being that without public transit, more people would choose to drive after being at the bar all night, leading to an increase in the number of drunk driving accidents. Additionally, opponents are concerned about Nebraska’s high national ranking as a binge drinking state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked the state No. 2 in a 2010 survey that looked at rates of binge drinking with four of the state’s major cities — Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Norfolk — ranked in the top 15 nationally.