Late-night drinking carries the day

After seven months of change and hope, the Pine Bluff City Council proved on Monday that it’s still dominated by flawed logic. With their 6-to-2 defeat of Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s proposal to roll back club closing times, the six council members have missed an opportunity to take bad public policy and make it better.

If nothing else, it shows that the power of empirically demonstrable facts is insufficient to trump, well, we’re not sure what, emotion? Despite the profusion of crime statistics presented by Pine Bluff Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks, the six want to leave the bars open as late as state law allows. As Hubanks repeatedly indicated, police call volume around clubs increases 200 percent after 1 a.m.

While the police are out rounding up the drunks and dealing with the violent fallout, they’re not watching your house, your business or your neighborhood.

Of course the undue burden doesn’t stop there. Not only are you paying the price in terms of reduced availability of police, you’re footing the bill to transport arrestees from the areas around the clubs. You’re paying to jail them. You’re paying to arraign them. You’re paying to prosecute them. Often you’re paying to defend them.

If found guilty, then you’re paying to incarcerate or supervise them. In short, the lit fuse of reduced police availability is just the beginning of your needless burden.

The earlier closing times has been positioned as representing everything from being anti-small business to opening the door to Prohibition-era speakeasies. The truth is far simpler: The city would rather pander to a culture of late-night drinking than take steps toward increasing public safety and well being.

Apparently, any fetter on freewheeling nightlife is some kind of moralistic slap. This position is doubly ironic coming from the clergymen on the council. What kind of Bizzaro World do we live in when preachers come out on the side of bars?

While nobody wants to live in a world where their freedoms are unduly constrained, what these council members have done shortchanges the interests of the majority to protect a handful of businesses.

As to the idea that closing the clubs at a reasonable hour is somehow anti-small business, we can only laugh. All businesses exist in a world of limits. Many of the businesses in question already close at 2 a.m., making the mayor’s fall-back position of having them close at 2 a non-issue. But that compromise got nowhere fast.

In the end, we are all ahead at full steam — in the same direction we’ve been headed all along. That would be score of 0 for the mayor and her idea of making the town a little safer and saner and 1 for the six on the council and their desire to just let it all hang out.