The Last Last Call

The city ponders extending bar-closing time. Will it make a difference?

By Jessica Voelker April 16, 2010 Published in the May 2010 issue of Seattle Met

ANYONE WHO EXPERIENCED last call in a London pub will remember the young double-fisters guzzling up as much ale as possible before Big Ben struck 11, then spilling out into the streets with energy to burn and fists to brandish. The 11pm cutoff, enforced from 1915 through 2005, created the most dramatic example of what cops in Seattle call the “push out”: the everyone-in-the-streets-at-once phenomenon that occurs when all the bars close at the same time. It happens here at 2am—when bars and clubs must stop serving alcohol in accordance with state law.

Mayor Mike McGinn made eliminating the push out part of his campaign, promising to “work with the Liquor Control Board to encourage staggered closing times.” In February, city attorney Pete Holmes brought up the idea again at a public safety forum. “It reduces the rush into the streets at 2am, which overloads police resources and taxi availability,” says Kathy Mulady, a city attorney spokesperson. Holmes is now drafting a proposal to stagger or eliminate last calls, and local bar and club owners largely support the idea. But plenty of private citizens are against it, and the Seattle Police Department has yet to take a side. Sergeant Sean Whitcomb’s beat used to be downtown, one of the nightlife hot spots (the others are Capitol Hill, Belltown, and Pioneer Square). Crime doesn’t necessarily happen in conjunction with the push out, he says. “Sometimes it’s orderly, peaceful…sometimes it’s fist fighting, weapons. Would that not happen in a staggered model?”

In 2005, the Brits lifted mandatory last call. Every restaurant, club, and bar submitted a license detailing their proposed hours of operation. Amid headlines highlighting fears of 24-hour drinkeries scumming up the city streets, most bars and pubs asked for only a few extra hours. There are now just three all-night pubs in London.


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