Bars to stay open until 4 a.m. if bill passes

Claire Murray | News Editor. A proposed law would permit Pennsylvania bars, such as Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon on East Carson Street, to purchase a special liquor license to sell alcohol until 4 a.m.

Claire Murray | Photo Editor. A proposed law would permit Pennsylvania bars, such as Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon on East Carson Street, to purchase a special liquor license to sell alcohol until 4 a.m.

Casey Chafin | The Duquesne Duke

A Pennsylvania lawmaker intends to propose legislation that would allow bars that purchase special liquor licenses to remain open until 4 a.m., two hours past the current mandated closing time.

Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) plans to introduce the bill, which he thinks would make Pennsylvania’s cities more appealing to young people.

“Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and cities in between are world-class cities of higher education, and we need to create an environment where the nightlife encourages young people who become educated here to stay in our Commonwealth to live, work and play,” Harris said in a statement last week.

Local bar owners have greeted the news with mixed reactions.

George Panelan, owner of Excuses Bar and Grill on East Carson Street in South Side, said the bill would have a two-pronged effect.

“It would be good for business,” Panelan said, “but I just think by 2 [a.m.] these young people have had enough to drink. I think there would just be more trouble on the South Side.”

Among all Pittsburgh neighborhoods, South Side claims home to the highest amount of violent crimes, according to the most recent report released by the Pittsburgh police.

In 2012 alone, 146 violent crimes took place in South Side, the report said.

Mike Kempf, owner of Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon on East Carson Street in South Side, thinks longer hours could lead to trouble.

“They say nothing good happens after midnight, well nothing really good happens after 2 [a.m.],” Kempf said. “I don’t think [extended hours] make a whole lot of sense, to tell you the truth. It might on maybe a Friday or Saturday night, but I don’t see it during the week.”

Under the legislation, a business with an extended permit would have to pay an additional 10 percent of the price they currently pay for a standard liquor license. This extra revenue would then be split, with one half going to the state, and the other half going to the municipality, according to the representative’s website.

Currently, a liquor license in Allegheny County costs approximately $65,000, but can cost more depending on the specific location within the county, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Kempf has his doubts about the bill’s viability.

“First of all, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen,” Kempf said. “I don’t see it ever going through.”

Mindy Heisler, general manager of Piper’s Pub on East Carson Street, said she is also skeptical of the bill’s feasibility.

“I don’t know if the bill will actually get passed as it stands,” Heisler said.

The bill would have little effect on some bars, according to Heisler.

“We don’t do super late night business like that, so why stay open until 4 [a.m.]?” Heisler said. “I’m sure for clubs and stuff, it’s probably more beneficial, but for pubs like this, perhaps we’ll just keep doing what we do.”

As for the bill’s goal of retaining college graduates, Kempf is not convinced.

“There’s a thousand different ways you could do that without making the bars open until 4 [a.m.].” Kempf said. “We’re not New York City.”

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