Officials in middle Georgia’s largest city are mandating that bars close at 2 a.m., an hour earlier than currently allowed, saying they believe an earlier closing time will reduce late-night crime.
Macon-Bibb commissioners voted 5-4 on Tuesday in favor of earlier closings.
Bars in Macon were already mandated to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m., but were allowed to stay open an hour later, which meant customers could order drinks at last call and consume them over the next hour. Bar owners say the new closing time will effectively move up when they stop serving alcohol to make sure patrons leave on time, even though they can still sell it until 2 a.m.
Alcohol regulation is a sensitive topic in Macon, where Bibb County Sheriff David Davis has suspended or revoked some liquor licenses in the wake of widely publicized shootings outside the businesses, claiming the bars are creating a danger to the public.
Mayor Lester Miller supported the earlier closing time, telling commissioners he “can’t sit by and just point my finger at the sheriff when there’s some things that I can do to save people’s lives,” WMAZ-TV reported.
Miller, in documents backing the proposal, said the extra hour encourages noncustomers to loiter at and around bars, and that some bars were reported to have flouted the current law by selling alcohol after 2 a.m.
Commissioners also voted 5-4 to limit the hours that food trucks can operate on county property, including downtown streets. Officials said the limitation would also encourage people to go home instead of loiter in public areas. Commissioners delayed a vote on a third proposal that would have made it illegal for groups of 10 or more people to gather on public streets and property between midnight and 6 a.m.
Bar owners say the plan will cut into their revenue. Brandon Lawler, who owns the downtown Macon bar and music venue JBA, said his bar is likely to stop letting people in at 1:15 a.m. and stop serving alcohol at 1:30 a.m. He estimated his revenue will fall by $15,000 to $20,000 a year.
“I feel like it’s a couple of bad apples that are ruining it for the bunch and I feel like we’re getting thrown into that,” Lawler told WGXA-TV.
IN OTHER NEWS: