Bid to change ‘last call’ time for Macon bars fails

The Macon Police Department’s push to move “last call” up a half-hour in the city to 1:30 a.m. went down in flames Tuesday.

Council members against the change were unmoved by the department’s push for it, saying the handful of statistics officers provided didn’t prove much of anything.

More certain, council members said, was this: Trimming drinking time by a half-hour would hit nightclubs in the wallet and send the wrong message as Macon tries to promote itself as a tourist destination and a city that welcomes young people.

“For lack of a better word, this is ridiculous,” Councilman Lonnie Miley said.

Police officials, who got the OK from Mayor Robert Reichert to seek the change, were clearly frustrated by the process. Their proposal was basically dead on arrival Tuesday with the council’s Public Safety Committee.

To make their argument, officers brought a breakdown of 911 calls made after 2 a.m. outside seven Macon clubs. They said they chose clubs that saw the most calls from Nov. 1, 2008, through Aug. 1: Big Boy Lounge, Coaster’s, Club Money’s, Dirty Iguana, Riverview Ballroom, Studio 32 and Whiskey River.

But council members said the 151 calls — including 22 fights and two homicides — didn’t prove much on their own.

Officers didn’t bring statistics from other times of the day for comparison’s sake. And the selection of seven establishments just fueled council arguments that, if only some places are a problem, the police should simply crack down on those places using existing laws.

But the existing alcohol law can be problematic.

Last call for alcoholic beverages is at 2 a.m., and no one is allowed to drink in a bar after that time. But the city code allows open alcohol containers to sit out in a bar until 3 a.m. to give employees time to clean up.

Some places abuse this provision, officers said. The change they sought would have moved last call to 1:30 a.m. and required open containers to be picked up by 2 a.m. on most days of the week.

“The lagging behind and the gathering in the parking lot is what’s causing these fights,” Capt. Robert Grabowski told council members.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.