PARKERSBURG - A bill being considered by the West Virginia Legislature would have local bars and taverns move last call back an hour from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., a move welcomed by some in the community.
House Bill 4454 would allow restaurants and other tourism destinations, such as bed and breakfasts, to serve alcoholic beverages as early as 10:30 a.m. as part of Sunday brunch as opposed to 1 p.m. An amendment passed this week would also call for all establishments to move last call back from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. throughout the week.
"I think it would be good," said Bobbi Starkey, owner of the Sly Fox in Parkersburg.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Kate Hutton is a bartender at the Sly Fox in Parkersburg, one of the West Virginia bars which would be affected by a legislative bill to reduce 'last call' from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Having the current time in place allows more time for people to become more intoxicated, increasing the likelihood a fight might break out.
"I think 2 a.m. would be awesome," Starkey said.
Currently through the week with last call at 3 a.m., all drinks have to be finished by 3:30 a.m. with everyone out of the establishment by 4 a.m.
Starkey said the Sly Fox has implemented a last call of 2:30 a.m. with everyone out by 3 a.m.
She acknowledges that some bar owners may not be happy about the proposed change because it will end up costing money, but feels the proposed last call will help keep some people out of trouble.
"To me, it is about keeping the roads and people safe," Starkey said.
Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin agreed the proposed change in time is a good idea to cut down on the possibility of people getting into fights.
The time change works better with shift changes around 3 a.m., allowing for a better police presence throughout the community, he said.
However, Martin said the city does not have the number of bars/taverns it once had and those kinds of problems have been minimized in recent years.
"Many of the bars here still in business have been in business for many years," Martin said of many of those not being the cause of too many problems.
Other establishments said it would not impact their business.
A bartender at the Blue Moon Tavern in Parkersburg said Tuesday its last call is at 1:30 a.m. with everyone out by 2 a.m.
"It won't affect us," he said.
Another amendment to the bill to keep the time on Sundays at 1 p.m. failed.
Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, voted in favor of the bill, but would have liked the amendment to pass putting the time back to 1 p.m. on Sundays to serve alcoholic beverages.
"I supported the amendment," he said.
During discussion on the bill, lawmakers in border counties, especially in the Eastern Panhandle, pointed out that surrounding states have earlier bar closing times than West Virginia.
People will travel into West Virginia to find a place where they can continue to drink.
"People who have already had too much to drink are coming into West Virginia and driving on our highways," Anderson said. "For me, this was a highway safety issue, because we are a border county."
Delegate Anna Border-Sheppard, R-Wood, voted against the bill as a whole, but supported the amendment calling for an earlier last call time.
Border-Sheppard said she has never supported drinking alcoholic beverages on a Sunday, but did not think that allowing people to start at 10:30 a.m. was a good idea.
"People should not be drinking that early," she said.
She was in favor of bars having an earlier last call.
"If people are going to be drinking for another hour like that, the more likely they will be out driving (intoxicated)," she said. "I can't believe that any business would really sell that much more during that hour to make a difference."
The bill passed the House 70-26 and moved to the Senate where it was introduced Tuesday and sent to the Senate's Government Organization Committee.