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Later last call for alcohol fails to find favor with Nashua officials

Union Leader Correspondent

July 21. 2013 8:39PM

Communities throughout New Hampshire will have the option of keeping their bars open until 2 a.m.

In Nashua, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and Police Chief John Seusing are not in favor of serving booze for an extra hour.

"I don't think it is unreasonable to have last call at 1 a.m.," Lozeau said last week. "My experience is that people tend to get in more trouble as they drink later into the night, especially if the establishments are done serving their full menus."

The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The later last call is only allowed in a community that adopts an ordinance setting the later closing time.

Manchester officials have not yet made any move to adapt the 2 a.m. closing.

House Bill 575, as amended, allows local municipalities to decide whether or not to opt-in to the new last call. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed it into law July 10.

Lozeau praised state legislators for adopting the opt-in, amended version of the bill.

"I was pleased they left it to the local communities to take action," she said.

In Nashua, the mayor or a member of the Board of Aldermen would have to present a proposed ordinance or resolution recommending that city bars and lounges be permitted to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Lozeau said she has no intention of drafting any proposal.

"It seems to me that nothing good could come of it. We have to be business friendly and community friendly at the same time," she said. "But I do worry about this one. Many of these establishments are close together, and people go from one bar to the next."

Bar-hopping may be good for local businesses, but it also makes it extremely difficult for bartenders and waiters to gauge just how much liquor someone may have consumed, said Lozeau, who previously owned three restaurants in the city with her husband, two of which offered alcohol.

Seusing said an additional hour of serving alcohol would mean an extra hour of people drinking and then having to make the decision of whether they are sober enough to drive home.

"It would open the door to some additional problems. I don't think it would be extreme, and I am sure we could handle it, but I still wouldn't be overly supportive of it," said Seusing.

The chief said he does not want to hurt any local businesses. Seusing said he welcomes any input from business owners about the situation, and says he would be happy to have a public discussion about the matter.

Although a 2 a.m. last call might make sense for some communities, Lozeau said it doesn't make sense for Nashua.

"I understand that some business owners may like this opportunity, but I don't see a real community-wide benefit," said the mayor.

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Bill Smith contributed to this report.

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