More cities want to be known as the city that never sleeps. Or at least as the city that isn’t so lame as to force bars to shut down soon after midnight.
Boston has a new mayor, Martin J. Walsh, and he’s hoping to change the city’s image from “puritan” to “cosmopolitan.” Nightlife has traditionally ended early in Boston, with most bars announcing last call at around 1 a.m. That’s also the time the city’s T subway system shuts down. Compared to cities like New York, where last call is 4 a.m. and the subway runs 24/7, Boston’s hours of business can seem like the equivalent of a nagging mom, making sure that everyone gets to bed on time.
Walsh wants to change all that, according to the Boston Herald, which reported that the mayor is announcing in a speech on Friday the launch of a “late night task force” whose mission is to shake off Boston’s stuffy image and make the city more vibrant and attractive to young people, international travelers, and anyone else who expects modern metropolises to offer food, fun, and entertainment 24 hours a day. It looks like the first step in this process will be pushing for later hours at bars and restaurants, perhaps with a 2:30 a.m. last call and the option of staying open until 3:30 a.m. for dancing. Weekend public transportation service could be extended into the wee hours of the morning as well.
Supporters of the initiative say that longer hours in a wide range of businesses have come to be expected in today’s world, and that the move is necessary for the city’s future from a purely economic point of view. “To me it’s not just about being out partying and drinking. I think the world has changed,” Greg Selkoe, founder e-retail apparel seller Karmaloop and creator of a youth-focused nonprofit called Future Boston Alliance, told the Herald. “It’s an economic development issue. If Boston wants to keep up with the rest of the world, it needs to loosen up a bit.”
Massachusetts as a whole seems more amenable to loosening up these days. A bill was recently approved in the house that would allow liquor stores to open earlier on Sundays; they’re currently banned from opening before noon, but if and when the bill officially becomes law, stores would be able to open at 10 a.m.
Boston isn’t the only city eyeing later last calls—and later business hours in general—as a means to juice local business and give downtowns a more youthful edge and vibrant, cosmopolitan feel. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Orlando, and Lincoln, Neb., are among the cities that have either approved or have been having discussions about giving the OK to open containers and longer bar hours in specific neighborhoods. Earlier this year in Colorado, lawmakers proposed new rules that would allow municipalities to let bars stay open as late as 4:30 a.m., rather than shut down at 2 a.m. like they do now.
In many cases, proponents of later hours make the argument that later last calls would make cities safer. Right now, the sidewalks flood with unruly crowds the moment the lights are dimmed, and many of the woozy bar patrons aren’t ready to call it a night. The theory is that with later closing times, bar customers would trickle out periodically as the night grows longer, decreasing the chances of a mob scene when the doors are finally shut.
This is exactly the argument being made in Montreal right now, even though the bar closing time is currently 3 a.m. Mayor Denis Coderre is pushing a pilot project that would give bars to have the option of staying open until 6 a.m. “The reason is pretty simple, and it’s also a matter of security,” Coderre explained, per CBC News. “When we close the bars at 3 a.m., everybody is getting out into the street at the same time. And then you have some people fighting, you have some security problems, and of course you have the noise that comes with it.”