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Last call, 6 a.m.? Montreal mayor suggests leaving bars open all night

James Lazar photo: July 21, 2011 - A walk In the Montreal rain. While most people sought shelter from the rain, this couple chose to enjoy the reduced traffic on the sidewalk. Serious Montrealers are not deterred from the nightlife by a bit of rain!

James Lazar

If a pilot project proposed by Mayor Denis Coderre is successful, Montrealers might be able to drink in bars until dawn.

Mr. Coderre says he does not see any reason watering holes should not be allowed to sell booze until 6 a.m. – a three-hour extension of current licensing laws.

"Listen, we are a metropolis," he said in an interview on Thursday. "If it's good for Berlin and Sydney, Australia, I don't see why we can't do that."

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Mr. Coderre noted that drinking establishments in Berlin stay open until 6 a.m., and that some never close.

If Montreal makes the change, the new closing time would leave only a two-hour gap when bars could not serve alcohol – between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.

The mayor said the 3 a.m. last call causes security and noise problems because too many people head out into the streets at the same time.

Mr. Coderre added that even the Montreal police chief agreed there's a big impact on the streets.

"You have some fights [and] you have even more noise," he said.

Mr. Coderre gave few details of the project, but said it would lead to extensive consultations with the public and stakeholders.

Jean-Marie De Koninck, a long-time proponent of highway safety, said staying open until 6 a.m. would allow drinkers to empty out the bars gradually, which would make streets a lot safer.

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"Those responsible for drinking establishments could encourage their clients to grab a coffee or a soft drink and sober up before getting behind the wheel," Mr. De Koninck said in an interview.

Mr. De Koninck created the Operation Red Nose safety program, which provides a chauffeur service for tipsy party-goers over the winter holidays.

Mr. Coderre suggested various options could be considered, such as allowing bars to stay open until 6 a.m. on weekends only.

It was no surprise that Peter Sergakis, who owns dozens of bars in the city, generally liked Mr. Coderre's proposal.

"I think it's a good idea," he said. "It's going to draw a lot of tourists from all over Canada and the United States."

Mr. Sergakis said it would also help fill up hotels and keep taxi drivers busy.

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"The city of Montreal downtown has to be vibrant; it has to be lively so we can attract a lot of tourists," he added.

Mr. Sergakis also noted that, instead of driving their cars, late-night barflies could take the subway home in the morning.

The subway usually stops just after 1 a.m. and resumes at dawn.

Mr. Sergakis, the president of the Union of Bar Owners of Quebec, also said it would be easier on the city's police force.

"If we close at six, there wouldn't be such a need for so many police officers out at three o'clock," he said.

He also agreed with Mr. Coderre that bars may not necessarily have to stay open every day until 6 a.m.

"It makes sense for Friday and Saturday and maybe Thursday too because, on the other days, people are working and there will not be that many people left at three o'clock in bars."

He also suggested any pilot project should take place in bars on one or two streets in the downtown core.

Any decision to change licensing hours must be endorsed by the province, which fixes the hours bars are allowed to operate.

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