Connecticut has always liked to compete with its neighbors for maximum economic advantage, and officials keep a close eye on taxes and policies across the border.
But top officials are challenging a bill in the state legislature that would match Massachusetts and New York by allowing some bars to stay open until 4 a.m.
The nearby MGM Springfield casino offered drinks at the casino until 4 a.m., but Hartford’s Gov. Ned Lamont and House Speaker Matt Ritter didn’t buy into the idea because of the late-night incident on the road. There are too many accidents.
The measure is being pushed by Bridgeport Democrat Christopher Rosario, who is pushing for a pilot program limited to nine densely populated neighborhoods, including his hometown, as well as Hartford, New York Wen, New London, Danbury, Stamford, Norwalk, Waterbury, West Hartford and Tribal Casino.
One of the reasons for the proposal, Rosario said, is that bars and restaurants have suffered the “detrimental and devastating impact” of the long-running coronavirus pandemic, and many have been struggling to recover.
“If local governments, local mayors and city councils decide to allow closures later in their jurisdiction, they should be able to do so,” Rosario said. “Like our tribal casinos, hotels near city centers, conventions Centers, baseball diamonds, and stadiums. Let’s create entertainment districts in Connecticut and let this industry thrive.”
When Rosario floated the idea in the past, the most in-depth was inserting it into the budget “implementer” along with a host of other items that were approved in the last frantic days of the legislative session. However, the project was removed at the last minute and was never voted on.
Rosario isn’t deterred by arguments that a later date could lead to more drinking and more accidents.
“It’s a risk whether the pub closes at 1am, 2am, 3am or 4am,” he said, adding that ride-sharing companies would be alerted if pub hours changed.
He stressed that the proposal is limited to nine communities and is entirely voluntary.
“It’s not mandated,” Rosario said. “The premise is not to make every bar in Connecticut open until 4 a.m. There may only be a few bars and restaurants that choose to do that. I just want to give them a chance. This is not a blanket legislation for everyone in the state.”
As a Fairfield County resident, Rosario said late-night DJs often cross the border to Westchester County, N.Y., for gigs
“There’s a lot of people out there enjoying the nightlife, and then they drive to New York and back,” he said. “Why not keep these people at home and they can take an Uber home? … South Norwalk has some of the best nightlife, probably in the Northeast. Stamford has a great nightlife.
Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe, a former Hartford assistant chief and current president of the Connecticut Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed concern about the potential for increased drunk driving and accidents.
“Bars and entertainment areas tend to be hotspots for police departments,” Dryfe said in an interview. “Union Place in Hartford – when I worked there – was always an area where we had special detail assigned to patrol the bar area only on weekend nights. Any extension of hours means police resources Will have to spend longer periods of time in there, and because people have the opportunity to stay out longer and later, there is a growing concern about drinking and driving.”
When pubs close at the same time, crowds flood the streets and cause other problems, he said.
“In any one area where the pubs are concentrated, all the pubs close at the same time – 2 o’clock – there’s a lot of pedestrians, a lot of people are affected,” Dryfe said. “They’ve been drinking for three, four, five hours. , all of a sudden the places they were in were all closed at the same time. There was some fighting. There was a very high concentration of people in one area, so we found it effective to have officers assigned specifically to that area so that it didn’t take up people who deal with that area The entire patrol shift.”
Lamont, 69, and Ritter, 40, said they never go out at that time of night, known as the time of accident on the highway.
“I’m not going to stay up past 11. Let me start with that,” Lamont said in an interview with The News. “I’m not really sure what it is. I don’t know what it is. I’ve seen driving accidents out there and I’m not sure it’s going to help.”
The extra time leads to extra drinking, not “an extra two hours of lemonade,” Lamont said.
Likewise, Ritter offered no support for the idea.
“First of all, you’re asking a guy who goes to bed late at night around 9:30,” Ritter told The Courant. “I’m less inclined to go on until 4am right now, I think people have enough time. I would worry about accidents and stuff like that. It’s not high on my priority list, no.”
“I think 2 a.m. gives people ample opportunity to have their fun on a Saturday night,” he added.
While Rosario said he understands the hesitation of Lamont and others to the idea, he added that the attitude of the legislature tends to change over time.
“Five years ago, everyone was pretty cool about marijuana,” Rosario said, noting that the legislature later legalized recreational marijuana, which Lamont signed into law. “As long as there’s something new, as long as there’s a change, they’re cool. Now, you can go, I can go to the dispensary and buy weed. Never shut up.”
Christopher Keating can be reached at email@example.com