By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Drinking until 2 a.m. on Saturday mornings may soon end in downtown Haverhill.
The city’s License Commission is debating whether to change the closing time at bars Friday night into Saturday morning from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Friday into Saturday is the only night of the week that bars and restaurants are allowed to remain open until 2 a.m. They must close by 1 a.m. the other six days.
The commission has scheduled a public hearing May 2 to get input from residents and business owners before deciding on the change.
In 2006, the commission voted that all bars and restaurants in the city must close by 1 a.m., except Saturday mornings, in response to a rash of late-night trouble, including fights, vandalism and noise that bothered people who live in downtown apartments and condos. The change came as city officials began encouraging more residential housing downtown.
License Commission Chairman Joseph Edwards said the time has come to review the policy of letting bars stay open for the extra hour Friday into Saturday.
“I’m not sure how I’ll vote yet,” Edwards said. “But I’d like police and the business owners to come in and give us their thoughts.”
Lt. Robert Pistone, the Police Department’s liaison to the commission, said police support the earlier closing time.
“We have to dedicate a lot of our resources to downtown at that time and it causes problems for us,” Pistone said. “Everyone seems to head downtown (early Saturday morning) for that last call.”
Pistone said he would have the department’s analyst run some numbers comparing crimes that occur at closing time Saturday mornings with crimes that occur at closing time on other nights.
Commission member Timothy Coco said he wants police to propose at the upcoming hearing some alternate ideas for reducing late-night problems other than rolling back the hours for restaurants and bars to be open.
“Young people don’t go out until very late these days,” Coco said.