Arizonans are one step closer to being able to buy a cold one until 2 a.m.
The House Committee on Commerce and Military Affairs voted 9-3 Monday to extend by an hour the time bars can serve alcohol.
HB2570 also grants an extra hour to convenience and liquor stores and anywhere else that sells beer, wine or hard liquor.
Monday’s vote came over the objection of Mothers Against Drunk Driving as well as neighborhood groups who fear the implications of having intoxicated motorists on the street later at night.
The majority of lawmakers were swayed by arguments from lobbyist Barry Aarons who said that unless Arizona allows later hours to imbibe it faces losing tourists. Aarons, who lobbies for the Arizona Tourism Alliance, said 37 other states already have later closing times.
Current law permits serving of patrons until 1 a.m., with the bar or restaurant having to pick up all of the glasses 15 minutes later. This legislation not only sets "last call" for 2 a.m. but also gives patrons until 2:30 a.m. to finish their drinks.
Aarons said Arizona competes with cities such as San Antonio and Denver for conventions. He said while Arizona has attractions such as a pleasant climate, the early closing time could be a makeor-break issue for some groups in determining where to hold their next meetings.
He said making this change will move Arizona’s economy from simply being in recovery mode to expansion mode.
Yolanda Herrera, president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association in Tucson, rejected the idea that longer drinking hours are necessary to convince conventioneers to come to Arizona. She noted, for example, that the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has survived and thrived for more than a half-century without the need for buying drinks after 1 a.m.
Herrera said she feared even later closing hours will mean some people will still be drunk when others are getting up to go to work.
But Aarons said a study by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States shows no difference in alcohol-related accidents between states with earlier versus later closing times.
Rep. Andy Biggs, RGilbert, who supported the legislation, said there is a "perverse logic" that suggests keeping people in bars later actually would reduce traffic accidents. He said this way they no longer would be on the road with more sober citizens going home from the movies.
The later drinking hour is far from a done deal. House Speaker Jake Flake, RSnowflake, also has said it needs to be approved by two other committees before it can move to the House floor.