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The North Bend Eagle


 

Ordinance allows bars to serve until 2 a.m.

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/23/10

Starting the middle of next month, people looking to wet their whistle in North Bend or Morse Bluff will be able to do so until 2 a.m.

At a June 9 village board meeting, Morse Bluff unanimously approved moving the closing time for bars from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

On June 15, The North Bend City Council followed suit with the passage of Ordinance No. 496.

In April the Nebraska legislature passed a bill allowing local governing bodies to extend the hours of alcohol sales by an hour. Previously, state law dictated that sales of beer and liquor had to end at 1 a.m. According to the new state law, a two-thirds majority of the local governing body is required to make the change.

The Council passed the ordinance with a 3-1 vote, with Tim Blackmon, Emily Kirschenmann and Lisa Voss voting for the measure and Kevin Ferguson against.

The ordinances in both North Bend and Morse Bluff will take affect July 15 and will only affect bars and restaurants that sell individual drinks by the glass. Package liquor will still have a 1 a.m. sales deadline.

Rick Elofson and Arlie Eckstein, the respective owners of Little Ricky’s Saloon and Arlie’s Bar in North Bend, approached the North Bend City Council about making the change in May.

Elofson said he expects the new closing time to affect his business only a half-dozen or so times a year.

“The only time it will have any major effect is celebrations, Old Settlers, Thanksgiving eve, that kind of stuff, holidays where everyone is back,” he said.

Both Eckstien and Elofson said the change in closing time would have a minimal effect on their bottom lines. They expect that people will still spend the same about of time in their bars, but everything will just be pushed back an hour. Passing the ordinance wasn’t necessarily about increasing traffic to their bars, they said, but rather a measure of protection against losing patrons to area towns that have bars staying open until 2.

“To be totally honest, I wasn’t real excited about this change,” Eckstien said, “but a person’s going to have to change with the times to stay competitive. Other places are going to do it.”

Eckstien said his business took a hit when the statewide smoking ban went into effect last summer, and he doesn’t want to see another drop by not adopting the 2 a.m. closing time.

Elofson echoed Eckstien’s concerns, saying patrons would be more likely to start their nights in surrounding towns like Morse Bluff if other cities adopt the later closing time and North Bend did not. Likewise, he said North Bend businesses could see a boost if Fremont does not pass a similar ordinance.

The Omaha City Council voted on the issue Tuesday, where it was expected to pass. Recently West Point voted 4-3 to extend bar hours, but that vote fell short of two-thirds requirement. All states bordering Nebraska allow bars to stay open until at least 2 a.m.

Eckstien said he has no idea how his business will be affected when the new ordinance takes effect, though he said it won’t affect him much personally.

“I’ll be in bed,” he said. “I have a hard time staying up past the 10 o’clock news at my age.”

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