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Editorial: To live and drink in Providence

Trust us: Bar fights aren't all they're cracked up to be. Broken bones, property damage and police calls make Friday nights less fun. These problems are exacerbated when fights spill out of the bar and onto the sidewalk, potentially turning innocent bystanders into collateral damage. Needless to say, bars should try to prevent as many street fights as they can.

One constraint on bars' anti-violent efforts is the mandatory 2 a.m. closing time imposed by the city. We don't know if you've ever been in a local bar at that hour, but it's safe to say that most of the patrons aren't exactly regular Alcoholics Anonymous attendees (though some of them probably should be). Predictably, when all of the drunk people are forced out of a bar at the same time, their rowdy behavior, previously confined indoors, does not subside immediately. In particularly bar-heavy areas of the city, the drunken horde that emerges blocks off sidewalks, creates a ruckus, starts fights and worse.

Apparently, the state government is just as tired of this sordid state of affairs as we are. A special legislative session of the General Assembly recently passed a new law allowing bars to apply for a license to close at 3 a.m. To prevent 3 a.m. from becoming the new 2 a.m., bars are prohibited from serving alcohol after 2 a.m.

The idea behind the law is a good one. Given another alcohol-free hour to lounge on cozy barstools, patrons will leave at staggered intervals, reducing the noise level and preventing the idiocy of drunken crowds from escalating into catastrophe. Extremely inebriated patrons will have another hour to cool off before they hit the streets, and another constraint on bad behavior.

The city intends to begin a six-month trial period for this law on January 1st, and we believe it will go over well. However, we wonder why the city decided to impose any closing time at all.

If the law's purpose is to disperse crowds and give the hyper-inebriated some time to recover, there is no reason to force everyone out the door at 3 sharp. Exiting crowds would be more scattered, and less drunk, if people could leave whenever they pleased. We believe the goals of the new law would be better served if bars could choose to close after 3 a.m., while keeping 2 a.m. liquor cutoff in place. Different bars would choose different times, leading to greater dispersion.

The perfect, however, should not be the enemy of the good. While we would prefer to let bars close whenever they see fit, the new law is an improvement over the status quo. We commend the Assembly for pushing it through.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to



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