MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In front of a full house in the council chambers, Morgantown City Council chose to put discussions on closing downtown bars early on hold during Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
With about 20 people representing local bars and restaurants around Morgantown, council decided to not move a proposal to the regular agenda that would’ve included closing Morgantown bars at an earlier time.
Michael Cardi, a local attorney who spoke on behalf of the Morgantown Retailers Association (MRA) Tuesday night, was not shocked by the decision.
“No I wasn’t,” Cardi said. “I didn’t think they were going to take action — especially not to pass any ordinance today.”
Cardi spoke during the public portion of the Committee of the Whole, discussing the MRA’s concerns regarding a potential early closing of local bars. More than 10 different businesses were represented during the public portion — all of which spoke against the potential change with one main reason in mind.
“The crux of [business owners] interest is that it’s a huge negative impact, economically, to their businesses,” Cardi said. “It’d be a 50 percent decrease in revenue if the bar closing time moves up by two hours.”
According to Cardi, business owners that spoke to the MRA said that even an hour earlier closing could lead to losing a quarter of total business revenue. He also believes other local businesses — like ride-sharing or transit — would take an economic hit as well.
Morgantown City Councilman Ryan Wallace said there are still constituents out there with concerns about downtown night life.
“They’re also concerned about noise, disorderly conduct, fights, alcohol related accidents,” Wallace said said. “This one is a bit of a tricky thing — walking down High Street the next morning and seeing vomit on the sidewalk. That’s something, from the city’s perspective, we would like to avoid.”
Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston previously told WAJR’s Morgantown AM that moving up last call is one option for improving public safety, but would be ineffective if not part of a wider, more comprehensive package of ordinances and laws. Some of those laws, he said, would need to be changed at the state level.
“I’m not for just closing the bars early,” he said. “If we’re going to do something, I say we have to be comprehensive about the response.”