On Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly introduced an ordinance that would continue the city's "Bar Safety Hour" program for another year.
The original ordinance became law last year in an attempt to increase the safety of bar-goers. The program allows bars in Anchorage which purchase a $50 municipal permit, as well as those with a restaurant designation permit, to stay open an hour past last call at 3 a.m. -- as long as they don't serve alcohol during that hour.
Owners of Anchorage's three participating bars, the Gaslight Lounge, Pioneer Bar and The Avenue, say the program allows people to trickle out of the bars instead of all being released at the same time.
"The challenge is for a bar, if they're staying open later, to accommodate these patrons," said Downtown Assembly member Patrick Flynn. "It's a cost to them, and so I'm not sure how we might entice them to participate on a higher level than they already are."
Despite the program's low adoption rate, its members say it hasn't been a serious strain on their resources.
"The costs are negligible, it's not a lot," said Gaslight Lounge owner John Pattee. "My staff is usually there doing their cleanup work, and they can do that around a few customers. There is a cost, but it's better to do what's right and take care of my customers so they can come back the next night."
In light of the extra hour's current success at his bar, Pattee says there is room for improvement.
"What we're trying to do is the 'trickle effect' -- to get some people to leave, the rest stay and then they leave -- is to let them purchase that last legally purchased drink," Pattee said. "If we can allow that, my staff doesn't have to go around, same thing as before, get everybody out by 3 a.m.; now we have to take their drinks away by 3 o'clock."
The Anchorage Assembly will hold a public hearing on the "Bar Safety Hour" program on Aug. 5.