Close bars later to keep millennials from moving? At what cost?

Among the many reasons people are drawn to our state, Pennsylvania is home to some of the world’s finest colleges and universities. According to at least one state lawmaker, however, the area’s history, architecture, culture, and business opportunities aren’t enough to convince the graduates of those fine colleges to settle down here. To do that, he argues, we need better nightlife.

If highly-educated millennials are moving away, that’s not good news, of course. Young college graduates form a crucial part of the economy and one of the most likely to produce new businesses, innovations and jobs. Would improving the nightlife opportunities in selected areas — specifically, allowing bars to stay open later — persuade these future leaders to stay? If so, is it worth it?

Those questions came up recently when Philadelphia State Representative Jordan Harris proposed changing state law so that bars located in “designated entertainment zones away from residential neighborhoods” could serve alcohol until 4:00 a.m.

“While I understand nightlife isn’t the only concern for those making a decision on whether to stay in cities across Pennsylvania or move, I do know that it is a concern, one that we can fix,” said Jordan in a statement.

Bars would pay more in licensing fees — but what about the cost of DUI?

Under Jordan’s proposal, bars in appropriate areas could choose to stay open and continue serving liquor until 4:00 a.m. instead of the current closing time of 2:00 a.m. If they do so, their liquor licensing fee would go up 10 percent, and the state and municipality would split that extra money.

With more money for everyone and happier millennials, what could go wrong? Well, there could be an increase in drunk driving accidents, which already cost Pennsylvanians far too much.

Beyond the human cost, more DUI accidents could also mean additional liability for bar owners. Under Pennsylvania law, bar owners can be held responsible if they serve alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated patron who subsequently injures other people. This is called “dram shop liability,” and bar owners have reason for concern. If drunk driving and associated accidents begin to rise, their costs could skyrocket.

For now, observers say that Jordan’s bill is unlikely to pass. That said, mayoral candidates in Center City have proposed a 4:00 a.m. closing time in a bid to increase tax revenues and fund city schools.

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