WHATCOM VIEW: Longer alcohol sale times linked to problems
Article printed in the Bellingham Herald – May 7, 2012 – Written by Amy Hockenberry of the Whatcom Prevention Coalition
An article by Ingeborg Rossow published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Addiction finds that in Norway each additional one-hour extension of closing hours for alcohol sales was associated with a statistically significant increase of 4.8 assaults per 100,000 inhabitants per quarter – an overall 16 percent increase in violent crime.
In a commentary on this article in the same issue of Addiction, Kathryn Graham writes, “Thus, if drinking tends to start at a regular start time, but drinking continues as long as bars remain open, late closing times will have a significant impact on overall consumption and related problems.”
Imagine if Washington state allowed bars to extend alcohol service by four hours, until 6 a.m. Would we see an increase in violent crimes?
One need only look to our neighbor to the north, Vancouver, B.C., to see the effects of extending alcohol hours.
In 2003 Vancouver extended bar closing hours in the Granville nightlife district to 3 a.m. A 2007 report by the city and police department found that between 2002 and 2006:
- The number of police calls between midnight and 6 a.m. increased from 2,000 to more than 3,500;
- The number of fights doubled from around 140 to almost 300;
- The number of disturbance and annoyance calls increased from approximately 310 to 410;
- The number of requests for assistance to dispatch doubled from 80 to 160;
- The number of stabbings and assaults in progress went from 40 to 100.
These increases in violence and accidents end up costing taxpayers at a time when budgets are tight.
Last month, the Vancouver, B.C., Police Department requested an additional $826,000 for emphasis patrols in the Granville nightlife district. This is only to patrol a three block area. Many patrons of these bars drive in from suburban areas where bars close at 2 a.m., meaning that Vancouver residents pick up the tab for suburban party-goers’ reckless behavior.
Another article published last year in Addiction by Kypros Kypri found that restricting closing times in New South Wales, Australia, led to a 37 percent reduction in assaults compared to a control city.
Professor Tim Stockwell, the director of the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia at the University of Victoria who has reviewed more than 50 studies on the impact of alcohol hours, says these two recent studies by Rossow and Kypri are two of the best studies he has seen and add to a growing body of research that shows the harmful effects of extending alcohol hours.
Stockwell notes that when you examine the 19 most reliable studies in the international literature (those with baseline and control group data) 16 out of the 19, or 84 percent) indicate adverse impacts of extended alcohol sales hours.
When asked to comment about extended alcohol hours, a local Bellingham bartender wrote, “As someone who has worked as a nighttime bartender for many years, I am firmly opposed to extending the hours of service. While extending service hours might be in the economic interest of a handful of establishments, there are other, non-economic values to be considered. It would encourage people to drink in bars all night. Extended service hours will also increase the demand for illegal stimulants. The existing bar closing hour already puts a strain on law enforcement in Bellingham, as most officers on duty are concentrated downtown. I can think of no public policy reason for extending service hours, and a myriad of reasons for not doing so.”
The Whatcom Prevention Coalition is a group of local organizations and citizens working together to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and violence. The coalition has been working to build a stronger community by providing community strategies through leadership, experience and resources designed for the community.
Many of WPC’s efforts have focused on creating the type of community we want to work, live and play in. Members include: Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom Family & Community Network, Communities in Schools, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, SeaMar Visions, Bellingham Schools, Ferndale Schools, Blaine Schools, ESD 189, Interfaith Community Health Center, Community Campus Coalition, Shuksan, Squalicum, and Bellingham Prevention Clubs, Traffic Safety Team, Bellingham Police Department, Ferndale Police Department, Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center and the Lummi CEDAR Project.
Amy Hockenberry is a coordinator with the Whatcom Prevention Coalition. You may reach her at 360-738-1196 or email@example.com.