Terry Luge, in the bar and restaurant industry for 30 years, doubts he’ll make money off the extra time Gov. Janet Napolitano gave him Tuesday when she signed a 2 a.m. closing time into law — although he may be a little more tired.
"In my opinion, it’s not going to be as great as they’re making it out to be," he said. "It just makes the night longer."
Still, things will be different for the owner of three East Valley nightclubs and Canyon Moon Ranch outside Florence, home of the annual Country Thunder music festival, which begins April 22.
Next year, the event’s crowd will have different expectations and organizers likely will have to adjust, he said.
Bar owners and law enforcement personnel across the East Valley contemplated how life will change after Napolitano signed legislation to permit the sale of beer, wine and liquor until 2 a.m., an hour later than now permitted.
Bar patrons will be able to hang around for half an hour after buying their last drink; current law requires customers to be gone by 1:15 a.m.
The law takes effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is expected to last at least into May.
Matt Rinehart, director of food and beverage operations at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, said his organization is discussing the later serving hour.
"We haven’t really jumped into it with both feet. . . . But my gut feeling is we will extend our hours, because we have an obligation to do so for our guests," Rinehart said.
Rinehart said many out-oftown guests are surprised that the bars close at 1 a.m., and a later closing time will likely increase business.
Lori Eccles, owner of Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa, said she doesn’t get that many late-night customers and isn’t sure if she will stay open later, but said the store of the same name in Tempe, owned by her brother, should be able to cash in, judging from the size of its late-night crowd.
"Business is going to be busy, still" after 1 a.m., she said. "How much busier, I really couldn’t tell you."
Tempe bar owners and bartenders said the later last call should provide a boost to bars and clubs still recovering from the city’s indoor smoking ban even though some of the effect will wear off as patrons move back their arrival times, along with their departures.
Jill Schaar tends bar at Doc & Eddy’s, which claims to have lost as much as 40 percent of its business to the smoking ban and has since added an outdoor patio/ smoking area.
"This year our numbers are actually up from last year’s Easter, so we’re on our way back up, but it’s definitely because of the patio," she said.
Eccles said that from what she has seen, Valley bar crowds stay out later than they once did, but Luge said he’s noticed the opposite trend among his customers.
"They just don’t drink like they used to," he said. "People are a lot more sane than they used to be, years ago."
If the success of the nonalcoholic after-hours operations of his two Mesa bars is any indication, different market segments will react differently.
Police departments are waiting to see how the later bar hours will affect public safety.
"The question was if we were going to see more DUIs. I don’t know, I think time will tell," said Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters.
Mesa police Lt. Ben Kulina said DUI enforcement will continue as usual.
"It will change our busy time from 1 to 2 a.m. to 2 to 3 a.m. now," Kulina said. "No matter what hour it is, we encourage nobody to drink and drive."
Valley municipal court judges said allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m. likely will not increase the number of DUI cases — because those who abuse alcohol and then drive will do it at any hour, regardless of when the bars close.
Scottsdale Justice of the Peace Michael Reagan said most DUI citations he deals with occur in the early evening hours on weekdays, and before midnight on weekends.
"People who get arrested for DUI, generally, are not the folks that are closing up the bars," he said.