DENVER – Colorado cities and towns would have the power to extend bar hours past 2 a.m. under a proposal advanced Wednesday by lawmakers who said it could reduce the large, unruly crowds from the traditional closing time.
“When you have hundreds of people leaving the downtown Denver area at one time, it’s more difficult for law enforcement to actually monitor the large crowds, but then also monitor those people who are getting in their cars and driving away,” said Denver Rep. Crisanta Duran, a Democrat sponsoring the bill.
Duran said the goal is also to give municipalities more flexibility to decide business hours on their own.
Lawmakers on Wednesday voted 12-1 to pass the bill out of the House Local Government Committee. The full House will now debate it.
The proposal would let municipalities decide whether to let bars stay open until 4:30 a.m. Current law prohibits the sale of alcohol from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.
“I’ve always wished Denver acted and felt like a bigger city,” said Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, another sponsor of the bill.
In cities with later bar hours, “everybody just kind of leaves when they’re tired and ready to go home,” Steadman said.
“You don’t have a crowd that’s just been pushed out the door into the street not wanting to go home and looking for trouble and things to do in the street.”
That’s been a concern in Lower Downtown Denver, a bar and nightclub district where crowds let out of bars around 2 a.m., sometimes are unruly.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes the bill, arguing it could lead to more intoxicated people on the roads.
Hannah Kenny, a Centennial resident, said she’s worried that people would bar hop from one city or town to another if there’s a patchwork of closing times throughout the state.
“That’s why this bill terrifies me,” she said.
Duran said local governments should have the discretion to set bar hours, noting that what works in a bigger city might not be ideal for smaller cities, or a casino town like Blackhawk.
“Ultimately, that’s what it’s about,” Duran said. “It’s just that, you know, is what is good for downtown Denver good for Pueblo? Or is what’s good for Blackhawk and some of those areas good for what’s happening in Colorado Springs?”