Earlier this week, I came across an article on BostInno.com about the City of Somerville potentially banning bars from announcing last call:

In a meeting last week, the Somerville Licensing Committee, which is responsible for regulating liquor licenses and laws, said at their March board meeting that they are considering banning bars from announcing “last call.” Their reasoning? Those two words encourage binge drinking.

Now, those of us who are of age know that last call is about the least fun time you can have at the bar: the lights come up, everyone rushes to get one last drink, and then you’re ushered out the door, sometimes in a less than friendly manner.  But the announcement also signals that you and your friends need to figure out how everyone is getting home, or where the fun is moving to next.

Should cities really be focused on what amounts to about a 10 minute window at the end of the night if they are focused on curbing binge drinking?

Admittedly, the announcement of “last call” has made me finish one drink quicker than I would have to get one last round before the bar closes.  But I’m over 21 and can make that decision on my own.  Also, when I’m done at the bar, I’ll either be taking the T home walking home or hopping in a cab.  Are there people who will be driving home who shouldn’t be?  Sure, but for them, I don’t think 5 extra minutes to “sober up” is going to make a difference.  They shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel no matter what, regardless of whether or not they sucked down their last two drinks in a rush to get out the door.

I think the real culprit here, which the BostInno.com article mentions, is the 2:00 am closing time.  People know they only have a set amount of time to enjoy themselves at the bar, and if you don’t start your night out until 10 or 11, that 2:00 am (or sometimes 1:00 am) closing time sneaks up really quickly.  Ignoring last call, if you know you’ve only got a limited amount of time to be at the bar, you’re probably going to be drinking your drinks more quickly all night, not just at the end.

Not announcing last call won’t prevent drunk driving or binge drinking.  Here are a few things that might help reduce the detrimental effects of those two issues:

  1. Having a public transit system that runs until the bars closed and everyone needs to get home.
  2. Having taxis that aren’t some of the most expensive in the country.
  3. Letting bars stay open past 2:00 am so people can enjoy their drinks over the course of a longer period of time.

You're out of luck if you want to take the T home after 1:00 am.

None of these will eliminate binge drinking or drunk driving, and that’s because at the end of the day, individuals are responsible for themselves.  People are going to make poor decisions regardless of whatever the rules may be.  (See: underage drinking)  It’s not the responsibility of cities, towns, and the state to tell people what time to stop drinking.  Instead, government at the municipal and state level should be focused on having the policies and infrastructure in place to get people home safely and inexpensively at the end of the night.

– Nick Downing, Future Boston Research Coordinator

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About Future Boston Alliance

Future Boston Alliance is a non-profit organization seeking to revolutionize our city's creative economy. By advocating for new talent and businesses and holding educational events, we aim to make Boston a hub for collaboration, innovation, and culture.

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