Nightlife Westneat Goes Clubbing
posted by August 6 at 16:04 PMon
Seattle Times’ columnist Danny Westneat hit the clubs this weekend. He wanted to see for himself just how bad things are in, as he puts it, “Seattle’s Bermuda Triangle of nightlife.” And for most of the evening things were calm. But at 1:37 in the morning…
…all hell breaks loose.
In Belltown Billiards, about 100 people are dancing and downing last-call shots when bright lights come on and the “push out” begins. That’s when every bar closes and empties onto the street to make the state-ordered 2 a.m. closing.
A fight erupts in a dark parking lot at Western and Blanchard. A man throws a beer bottle at another man, who rushes him.
Up the street it’s worse. A mini-rumble starts in the push out from the most jammed club, the See Sound Lounge. A man is body-slammed into a 10-foot window fronting a haute cuisine restaurant, Mistral. A waterfall of glass showers down on the wrestling men, the sidewalk, the street.
The men bolt. The crowd gets volatile, taunting and shoving. A bouncer tells me later that someone pulled a gun.
Westneat wonders whether later closings times—or staggered closing times, or no closing times at all—might help alleviate the problem. Most Seattle clubbers don’t start heading until after 11:30 these days. That leaves at best two hours for drinking, dancing, and hooking up. When last call rolls around people start “drinking against the clock,” pounding one or two more back before the lights come up and security starts shoving everyone out on to the streets at the exact same time. Most clubbers are drunk and few are sorted and ready to head home.
Westneat points to London as a positive example of later closing times. After being forced to close at 11 P.M. for decades all the pubs in the UK can now legally serve drinks 24 hours a day. Alcohol-related assaults down by 15 percent, Westneat writes.
But most of the news coming out of the UK makes the new 24-hour drinking rules look like a disaster. It pains me to link to these stories because I would like to see later or staggered closing times myself. But the conservative London Timesreports…
Ministers hoped that staggered opening hours and later closing times introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act would limit offences committed by the drunken crowds that surged onto the streets at the traditional 11pm closing time. But a report published by the Home Office last week shows that many of the troubles have merely been postponed.
Crime is certainly down at the old closing time. In the year after November 2005, when the changes were introduced, there were 3,523 fewer offences of violence, disorder or criminal damage between 9pm and midnight. But in the hours between midnight and 6am the number of offences rose by 13,852. The bright spot, according to the Home Office, is a 5% drop in serious violent crime during the night.
Says the panicky Telegraph…
Gordon Brown has ordered a review of 24-hour drinking laws following concern that it is leading to binge drinking and more alcohol-related violence….
A Home Office report last week disclosed that offences of assault, criminal damage and harassment between 3am and 6am rose sharply in the 12 months following the reforms.
Ministers had argued that staggered and later closing times would reduce crime by avoiding the traditional 11pm rush on to the streets, which often led to violence.
Researchers at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital found that the number of alcohol related visits to the accident and emergency department trebled after 24-hour drinking laws were introduced in the capital.
The Guardian finds a little good news…
Statistics published last week showed a small increase in violent disorder, criminal damage and harassment committed between 6pm and 6am. A study at St Thomas’ hospital in London also recorded an increase in violent crime linked to the relaxed licensing laws.
It has also been argued that 24-hour drinking makes it easier for the police to handle drink-related violence as it is no longer concentrated all at one time as drinkers leave pubs.
But we don’t have to go with either 2 A.M. closing times or 24-hour drinking. Staggered closing times might be a better idea—a mix of 2 A.M. and 4 A.M. bars—or allowing clubs to stay open after they stop serving alcohol, so clubbers can stay and dance it off, hang out, and leave when they’re ready and, perhaps, a bit soberer.
But if you want to argue for later closing times, or no closing times, it might be best to look for examples other than the UK.