Posted 1/13/2014 12:00 am
The Little Rock Board of Directors is considering a ban on late-night establishments within the city limits. Everybody wants to live in a safe environment, but we must carefully consider whether a ban on late-night establishments would be a net positive for the city.
1) It’s the economy! The economic impact that late-night establishments have on our community is huge. Even the smaller ones provide dozens of fairly well-paying jobs, most of them going to young and unskilled workers who will have a hard time earning the same amount once a ban is in effect. A ban on late-night establishments will almost surely close the vast majority of the late-night private clubs in operation in the city. Why would we want to limit job opportunities for so many people?
Furthermore, Little Rock’s late-night establishments are locally owned and operated, and almost all of the revenues from them remain within the city of Little Rock or in Arkansas. People will find ways to spend their income regardless of whether late-night bars exist, but it is unlikely that those dollars would have the same positive impact on the local community that they do by being spent at locally owned businesses.
Finally, we must consider tax revenues for both the state and the city of Little Rock. Little Rock, Pulaski County and Arkansas receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from these businesses just in sales and alcoholic beverage taxes, and this estimate doesn’t even consider the income and sales tax revenues the state and community receive from those employed at these businesses.
The combination of lost job opportunities for young and less skilled citizens, the loss of local business revenues to out-of-town and out-of-state businesses and lower tax revenue for the city of Little Rock and our communities is why, economically speaking, banning late-night establishments is a bad idea.
2) It’s about safety. All places that serve alcohol have to deal with the negative sides of alcohol consumption. Having a limited number of places to go late at night helps defragment where the city’s alcohol-related crimes and incidents happen. Most late-night activity, and the riffraff that comes with it, is currently centered on the late-night bars, making it much easier for law enforcement to respond to incidents.
Why don’t we have the conversation of how to make them even safer? The easiest thing we can do is require that all these businesses have a trained security staff and/or off-duty police to help ensure safety. Some establishments already do this, and having an officer on location not only reduces violence, over-consumption and drug abuse, but also helps prevent the biggest problem for a business that serves alcohol: drunk driving. Furthermore, such a requirement would create even more jobs.
Because banning late-night establishments would further fragment the location of late-night activities and alcohol consumption, and because there are other means to ensure the safety of bar-goers and the general public from the negative effects of alcohol consumption, banning late-night establishments is a bad idea.
3) It’s entertainment. Ending late-night bars will not end late-night activity. Young people and those who work late hours enjoy socializing just as much as the rest of us. Just because it is not the lifestyle of those who are writing our laws does not mean these lifestyles and schedules are a bad thing.
While those like myself rarely go to late-night bars, their existence increases the interest of young professionals considering relocating to Little Rock. Because banning late-night establishments would further limit entertainment options for young professionals and those who work late hours, banning late-night establishments is a bad idea.
Rather than banning late-night establishments, we should recognize that they fill an impressive role in our community and local economy and that the negatives of alcohol consumption and late-night fraternization can be mitigated through tougher regulation and increased security rather than an all-out ban.
Charles Alexander Lanis