Duran closing-time bar bill draws bipartisan laughs, support

Let the bars stay open late, or close early, so long as the community of people who live around the bars make the decision. That’s what lawmakers provisionally decided on Friday, moving a bill forward in the state House that aims to establish local control over bar-time.

Sponsor Democrat Crisanta Duran of Denver said the bill (HB 1132) comes in response to upticks in closing-time violence and drunk driving in areas like Lower Denver around the ball park.

The bill had lawmakers crossing party lines in both directions.

Something about the bill also had lawmakers acting lighthearted. Representative Cheri Gerou of Evergreen suggested the bill was an unnecessary overreach when she moved a mock amendment to make everyday bad decisions illegal.

Republican Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker was more sober in his comments.

“This is a bill that hits pretty close to home,” he said. “Growing up I had a mother tenaciously against drunk driving because i had a father who participated in that a behavior. I know the terrors as a child of being in a car that’s being operated by a drunk driver. I don’t want more drunk driving.”

“We’re have a debate going on here that we should have more often,” he added, “people on both sides coming together and wrestling with an idea and trying to figure out what’s the best solution for Colorado.”

Holbert nevertheless went on to say he believed that if communities wanted to keep their bars open later, they should have that choice. He said he rarely agrees with Duran but that, in this case, giving communities the flexibility to decide what was best seemed right to him.

Proponents of the bill say it will ease high-density, high-intoxication mayhem in bar districts, solve some supply and demand issues with taxis and even allow bars to stay open and switch to serving coffee and food in the wee hours.

Opponents say the bill won’t stagger the outflow of bar-goers. They say it will instead encourage bar hopping, neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town.

Duran’s bar bill will be read one more time in the House next week.

UPDATE: After much discussion over the weekend, representative Duran took the floor on Monday and said it was time to go back to the drawing board. “Please put me out of my misery and kill this bill,” she said. HB 1132 was overturned in it’s final vote by a rate of 60-3.

[ Image by Gwen Harlow. ]