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March 23, 2013

'Last call' could be extended

Bill allows alcohol to be served until 2 a.m.

New Hampshire is one of only four states where alcohol cannot be served after 1 a.m. But that could soon change.

"Last call" would be extended, with alcohol allowed to be served until 2 a.m. under a bill passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

The potential economic benefits are easy to swallow, according to Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, the legislation's sponsor.

“It’s a pro-business bill,” he said. “This would earn more revenue and keep more people from going over the border.”

But for some in the hospitality industry, it's not that simple.

“I would have to be against it,” said Mike Jordan, bar manager at Murray’s Tavern in Salem. “We just have so many liabilities on our hands already. It’s more aggravation for me than it’s worth.”

Jordan said he routinely has to call and even pay for cabs for people who are intoxicated.

“You have to be extremely careful in this business,” he said. “We’re basically professional babysitters.”

But one proponent said there are laws in place that should put bartenders and restaurateurs at ease.

“We have laws that protect bartenders and owners,” said Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry. “They shouldn’t put their license in jeopardy. They are required not to overserve.”

Both Massachusetts and Vermont have last call at 2 a.m. Maine’s last call is at 1 a.m.

Alicia Kalil, owner of 2 Sisters Sports Bar and Lounge in Plaistow, admitted it would be difficult to choose between receiving extra revenue and dealing with potential liability. But in the end, Kalil said her bar would likely stay open an extra hour.

“We have a later crowd as it is,” she said. “People start coming in at 10 p.m. By 12 or 12:30 a.m. is when the party is really started and people letting loose. I would be able to capitalize on it because it would extend one of our busier times.”

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