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April 28, 2013

City considers rolling back last call

Police want restaurants, bars to close an hour earlier Saturday mornings

HAVERHILL — Ivan Yee said his Chinese food restaurant generates up to $1,000 in sales in the final hour it is allowed to be open early Saturday morning — from 1 to 2 a.m.

He might soon lose that income, however, under a proposal being considered by the city’s License Commission to roll back the Friday-night-into-Saturday morning closing time for restaurants and bars from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m.

That is the only day of the week restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open to 2 a.m. The Police Department supports the earlier closing time.

“We have to dedicate a lot of our resources to downtown at that time (2 a.m. when bars close) and it causes problems for us,” Lt. Robert Pistone said. “Everyone seems to head downtown (early Saturday morning) for that last call, including a lot of people from other communities.”

Yee said people tend to go out later and stay out longer on Friday night because Friday is a work day.

“We keep the kitchen open until 2 a.m. and we do pretty good on food sales in addition to alcohol,” Yee said of his Oriental Garden restaurant in Westgate Plaza.

“I’d definitely like to see closing time remain 2 (a.m.), but I trust their judgement,” he said of the License Commission.

The commission will hold a public hearing Thursday at 6 p.m. at City Hall to get input from residents and business owners before deciding on the change. The commission is expected to vote after the hearing.

“I’m not sure how I’ll vote yet,” said Joseph Edwards, a lawyer and the commission’s chairman. “But I’d like police and the business owners to come in and give us their thoughts.”

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.

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