Mayor Mike’s Party Town

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee July 13, 2010

Perhaps in anticipation of his imminent midlife crisis, Mayor Mike McGinn is poised to make good on his campaign promise to turn Seattle into a party town.

At a meeting tonight on Capitol Hill (7pm, the Century Ballroom), Mayor Mike McGinn and SPD are set to unveil the Seattle Nightlife Initiative, an eight-point plan to improve public safety in and around nightlife hotspots while loosening up Seattle’s restrictions on boozing, which seems a bit counterintuitive.

The most exciting and likely-to-be-controversial piece of McGinn’s proposal is the potential for the city to extend cut-off times at bars around Seattle and stagger closing times to, hypothetically, put less strain on police resources. It appears the city—which brought in a consultant to study how other cities have dealt with staggered closing times—would need to appeal any change in liquor service hours to the state liquor board.

McGinn also wants to institute training requirements for club security staff, improve access to taxis and late-night buses (of course), and give police the authority to slap loud, obnoxious patrons with a civil $125 “drunken and disorderly” citation.

According to Seattle Police Department spokeswoman Renee Witt, police are typically limited to putting “obviously inebriated…obnoxious, unruly” patrons in a cab or telling their friends to take them home.

The proposal also calls for the city to do more outreach work with community groups on nightlife issues, “professional development” of club and bar owners, which sounds to be some sort of city-guided Big-Brother-Big-Sister program for new bar owners. A five-member, multi-department team—which currently handles reviews of club/bar liquor licenses—would also conduct “code compliance enforcement,” streamlining licensing for bars and clubs, under McGinn’s proposed plan.

Naturally, folks in the nightlife industry are psyched about the changes.

Nightlife kingpin Dave Meinert—co-owner of the 5 Point in Belltown—was involved in discussions with the city over the new imitative, which he describes as “pretty brilliant.

“It’s coming from the right place,” Meinert says of the plan, “unlike with [former City Attorney Tom] Carr and [former Mayor Greg] Nickels, which was all punitive against music venues."

When asked how the proposal might change business at the 5 Point, Meinert said he'd like to serve liquor 24 hours a day, although he contends that's really not much of a change at all.

"That’s 4 more hours than we do now," he says. "That’s not really a huge change."

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