OLYMPIA – After almost two years living in Pugetopolis, I’m still surprised by things that highlight the big differences between the East Side and the Wet Side of the state.
Take for example, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s proposal last week to address the problems with rowdy patrons leaving downtown bars at the mandated 2 a.m. closing time, creating huge disturbances and a sudden rush of drunk drivers on the streets.
This really is a problem. A few years ago my daughter lived in Belltown, an area near downtown that is home to innumerable trendy bars and restaurants. One night while visiting, we were treated to the sounds of closing as bar patrons made their way to a nearby parking lot, loudly discussing transgressions that one or the other had committed during the evening, stumbling into cars and setting off anti-theft alarms.
“What the (bleep)”
“Where’s my (bleeping) keys?”
“(Bleep) Did you leave them in the (bleeping) bar again, you (bleep)?”
“(Bleep) no. I never took them out. Take me to my place to get the (bleeping) spare. I’m too (bleeping) wasted to drive anyway.”
“(Bleep) no. I’m too (bleeping) wasted, too.”
About that time, someone from a nearby apartment opened a window and shouted that they should “shut the (bleep) up” causing the bar patrons uniformly to suggest he “(bleep) himself”, causing more residents in other apartments to join in. As a visitor to Seattle, I was unsure of the protocol and refrained from participating. It eventually ended when the rain started, the bar patrons piled into a car to which someone had the (bleeping) keys, and sped away.
Because rain is regular but not dependable in Seattle, some nights the disturbances go longer and police are called to scenes all around downtown.
Mayor McGinn’s solution, which has the support of the city’s police department, to bar-closing mayhem is – and I am not making this up – keep some bars open all night. With no “last call”, loud obnoxious drunks apparently would stay on their bar stools until they pass out and a bouncer deposits them in a cab.
This has backing in some sectors, particularly among those who believe that to become a truly cosmopolitan metropolis on the level of San Francisco or New York, Seattle needs to shed its puritanical inclinations to close bars at 2 a.m. And from bars, of course, where staying open longer means making more money, which means that the city would make more money on taxes.
I’m not so snobbish as to suggest Spokane drunks are more genteel when they leave at closing time.
But it’s hard to imagine any Spokane mayor or police chief coming up such a plan. The Spokane municipal response would likely be earlier closing times and police stings for public intoxication, disturbing the peace and drunk driving. This would be followed by the inevitable complaints from the business community that the city is doing everything possible to drive people away from downtown. Most residents, meanwhile would ignore the whole thing because they are home, in bed and asleep by 10 p.m. and haven’t been in a bar for last call since college.