A proposal to extend drinking hours in some bars in the state meets different views.
Democratic State Representative Jordan Harris of Philadelphia introduced legislation that would allow some bars in Pennsylvania to stay open two hours later to help them recover more quickly from financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. If the Harris Bill passes, companies will have to apply for a special license for extended hours.
Each city government and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would have to approve the permit, after holding at least one public hearing, for the business to remain open after 2 a.m.
The company is also expected to pay a one-time royalty equal to 10% of its annual PLCB royalty to local and state governments.
The bill would create designated entertainment areas, outside of residential areas, where extended hours would be allowed.
Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat, who has experience in the restaurant and bar industry, said he personally believes the state should give municipalities the ability to decide whether extended hours will be in. their best interest.
He doesn’t think overtime would be good for Hazleton.
The extended hours could benefit communities where employees work 24 hours a day, but Cusat believes the extension should only apply to establishments that sell food that makes up the majority of their business.
âThat would only be where you could serve with food and table service,â Cusat said.
The mayor said he was not disputing that the state sets maximum opening hours, which currently range from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., but that communities should have the power to set their own limits.
âUnder the current demand, I think 2 am is still too late,â he said. “There aren’t a lot of places open during peak hours.”
Some communities are already grappling with noise, traffic, accidents and other âquality of lifeâ issues at the time of the shutdown, Cusat said.
âWe have a significant amount of activity at this time of night,â Cusat said. âYou have activity until 11:00 pm, then it wears off. Then it resumes as the bars close. It is a bump that is neither needed nor appreciated by citizens.
As a city councilor, Cusat said he drew on his experience in the bar and restaurant industry to develop regulations for establishments that allow patrons to bring their own bottle. These rules were intended to help establishments where food sales represent the majority of business. They also limit access to alcohol at BYOB establishments to 11 p.m., he said.
Jay Velar, owner of the Railyard Restaurant & Bar on Jefferson Avenue in Scranton, wonders if he wants to stay open until the wee hours of the morning.
âI would consider it, but I have mixed feelings because 2am is already late as it is,â he said. âIt’s a kind of double-edged sword. I understand both sides of the coinâ¦ I am almost impartial.
Velar is concerned about the potential repercussions that could result from customers soaking up longer.
“I understand the consequences that can arise from allowing people to drink at all hours of the night,” he said. “No amount of money is worth having additional problems for an establishment.”
While he would appreciate having the option, Velar is not sure he would have enough workers to cover the overtime.
âI’m torn because I’m a big supporter of individual freedom, so I like the opportunity to stay open later,â he said. “However, even if I wanted to, I would have staff issues at the moment.”
Patrick Nasser, co-owner of Backyard Ale House on Linden Street in Scranton, is intrigued by the proposal.
“It’s an interesting prospect, but I don’t know if that makes up for the losses of the year,” he said. “Anything that is at least on the table to help the bar and restaurant industry recover from last year is definitely worth exploring.”
Nasser noted that it’s difficult to predict how customers would react to extra hours of drinking.
“It would be an interesting dynamic to see if there is a higher rate of incidents or if people are controlling their drinking knowing they can stay outside a little longer,” he said. . âWhether or not there are enough drinkers who would like to drink alcohol and go out to socialize at this time is also debatable. “
Even though bars are allowed to stay open later, Nasser recognizes the importance of staying vigilant.
âIf it was until 4 am, you still have to do it responsibly,â he said. âYou can’t overwork someone just because there is overtime. “
Rob Friedman, owner of the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp., Is looking to cut the hours rather than extend them.
âI’m changing my hours at the jazz club so that all the music starts at 9 pm,â he said. “I want to be done by 12 in the morning and everyone’s gone before 1 am. Nothing good happens after midnight as far as I’m concerned.”
Scranton chairman Bill Gaughan is reportedly not supporting the expansion of alcohol service in the city.
âI don’t think there are advantages, there are only disadvantages,â he said. “This is not good for our neighborhoods and it is certainly not good for our police department which will probably have to answer more calls.”
Scranton Police Chief Leonard Namiotka is concerned that some companies are more concerned with padding their profits than overall security.
âSome establishments may be just looking to increase their income and don’t really care how intoxicated people are,â he said. “I know businesses are hurting and it’s unfortunate, but we could see an increase in alcohol-related incidents such as housekeeping, accidents and drunk driving with the two overtime hours of operation. . I would be a little suspicious of this.