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2 a.m. 'last call' allowed for Alexandria bars

Bars in Alexandria will soon have the option of serving alcohol until 2 a.m. - one hour later than they've been allowed to in the past.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Alexandria City Council voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance letting bars apply for a later last call license through the state.

The ordinance takes effect as soon as it is published, which will be today, Friday. The last step is for bars to obtain the state license, which could happen in time for this weekend, New Year's Eve.

The license for the extra hour, paid to the state, costs $200 the first year and is based on gross sales after that.

Two businesses, Bug-A-Boo Bay and Garden Center Lanes, requested the new ordinance, saying it will allow them to compete with other cities in the area.

The two businesses again stated their case during Tuesday's public hearing. "We just want to be on an even playing field," said Charlie Meyer with Garden Center Lanes.

Eric Halverson, representing Bug-A-Boo Bay, said that tourists are accustomed to a 2 a.m. bar closing and Alexandria should have the later time to accommodate them.

No one else spoke at the hearing although City Administrator Jim Taddei read portions of a letter submitted by Gail Murray of Jerry's Bar and Grill that opposed the later last call.

Murray said that although the 2 a.m. time is optional, her bar would be forced to extend its hours to remain competitive. She said this would result in more labor costs and increased expenses.

Murray also said that an extra hour of drinking could result in more drunk driving and increased crime.

Taddei also summarized a letter from John Timmerman, the owner of Bug-A-Boo Bay that supported the ordinance. Timmerman wrote that documents from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office indicated no increase in crime or drunk driving since Garfield adopted a 2 a.m. time last year.

Council member Owen Miller opposed the ordinance. He said that because of cuts by the state Legislature, the police department budget is tight. He said that the additional areas that are coming into the city through annexation would stretch law enforcement thin.

Miller suggested if the extra hour was allowed, the city should look at it again after a year to see if there have been problems.

Council member Sara Carlson said that businesses with liquor licenses come before the council every year when licenses are renewed and any issues could be addressed at that time.