Following its second reading, the Murray City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that will allow bars and taverns to stay open until 1:30 a.m. instead of midnight.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Jason Pittman, passed with a vote of 6-4.
Pittman had moved to amend the city’s alcohol ordinance in this way at the Sept. 26 council meeting following the examination of a report presented by Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator Sergeant Kendra Clere.
Clere’s report found that in the period from 2012’s second quarter to 2013’s second quarter, alcohol intoxication charges had increased in Murray from 12 to 29.
She said this increase was likely related to the fact that bars close at midnight in Murray and it is difficult to find a cab ride home when so many of the bars’ occupants choose to use cabs to travel to Puryear, Tenn., where they can continue drinking until 3 a.m.
Clere said those trying to take a cab home from the bars must often wait between 45 minutes to an hour, causing many to shun this form of transportation, preferring to walk.
The newly passed ordinance, which made several other changes to Murray’s previous alcohol ordinance, met opposition before the vote from Councilman Greg Taylor who moved to eliminate the section allowing bars and taverns to continue to sell alcohol and stay open past midnight.
Taylor cited statistics on alcohol intoxication arrests in July, August and September and argued that allowing residents to drink later in Murray would lead to an increase in intoxication-related arrests.
At the previous meeting, he said the lack of available cabs would create an opportunity for more cab companies to operate in Murray.
Pittman rebutted that if bars could stay open later in Murray, it would discourage patrons forced to leave at midnight from driving to Tennessee to drink, thus allowing for more cabs to be available to transport locals home.
Taylor’s amendment to the ordinance, striking Pittman’s proposal out, did not pass with a vote of 5-5, with Mayor Bill Wells breaking the tie with a vote of no.
The subsequent vote for the original, unamended ordinance then passed with votes from Pittman, Mike Faihst, Pat Scott, Pete Lancaster, Jane Shoemaker and Robert Billington Jr.
Wells said they will revisit the ordinance on Nov. 1 of next year and look at factors such as public safety issues, revenue generated and any unforeseen problems which may arise, then will allow for discussion on the ordinance once again.
“We’re going to try it and see if it works,” Wells said. “It’s better than just saying, ‘we’re not going to do it at all,’ and then we would never know how good or bad it would be.”
Katie Wilborn, junior from Louisville, Ky., said she thinks the extended hours will encourage people to pace themselves at bars and taverns, and not binge drink heavily before midnight.
She said any potential drunk drivers will be easier to notice by police driving later at night with less people on the road.
Veda Riley, senior from Cape Girardeau, Mo., said she also thinks extending bar hours is an intelligent idea.
“People are going to drink and at least this way they’re contained in a specific area and not drunk driving and putting others in harm’s way trying to go somewhere else to drink,” she said.
Riley said she was surprised the hours had not been extended sooner and not before Murray became a wet city.
The ordinance will go into effect as soon as it is published.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Assistant News Editor