Organizers of a campaign to extend closing time at Arizona bars until 3 a.m. will start their petition drive this month in Scottsdale, where they hope patrons of the state’s trendiest nightclubs will support their cause.
Jim R. Lugo of Arizona United said the East Valley’s nightclubs and bars make it an obvious launching pad for his group to abolish the 1 a.m. cutoff to sell alcohol.
He filed paperwork with the state last month for a campaign that would change what he sees as an outdated law that hurts Arizona’s economy.
He has so far focused on raising funds and building support in the bar industry, he said, as he prepares to begin collecting the 122,614 signatures needed to put the issue on the November 2004 ballot.
Lugo, a 19-year-old real estate agent from Glendale, started the group with about 20 supporters because he said longer serving hours will help the economy by drawing more conventions and visitors to Arizona. The 1 a.m. closing time stifles nightlife, he said.
Some bar owners said Lugo’s effort is overdue.
"I believe that to stay competitive, especially in the convention business and our tourism industry, we’re going to have to be open until at least 2, and 3 would be better," said Pattie Fuller, owner of Pattie’s First Avenue Lounge in downtown Scottsdale.
Fuller said that her nightclub draws mostly locals, but the state’s closing time surprises out-of-state visitors.
"People aren’t used to going out to a bar and (start) dancing until 10:30 or 11," Fuller said.
"That gives them only two hours. It really affects the convention business because they’d rather go anywhere else where they can party longer."
The status quo is fine with some in the tourism industry. The Valley is a popular tourism destination regardless of closing time, said Doug MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. Plenty of tourists come for the weather, resorts, golf courses, sporting events and natural features.
Tourism aside, longer hours will give people more time to socialize, said Steve Wigand, general manager of the Mill Avenue Beer Co. in Tempe. Drinkers could pace themselves instead of slamming drinks, he said.
"It would save people from rushing when they get off work," Wigand said.
The idea has raised concerns at Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group has said a later closing time would result in more drunken driving — and more deaths.
Lugo acknowledged some bar patrons will drive impaired but he argued the later time may help clear the roads of people who didn’t drink and are driving home after working late or seeing a movie.
"You’re always going to have these hard-core drunks who definitely are in no shape to drive," Lugo said.
For more information, Arizona United can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (623) 329-9294.