Barkeep Confessions: Why changing last call is a bad idea

Louisvillians have been all a flutter since Highlands Metro Councilman, Tom Owen, issued a knee-jerk, reactive proposal to solve the violence and vandalism issues plaguing some (cough – Cahoots – cough) area bars: Push last call at bars up to 2 a.m., rather than the current 4 a.m. ordinance. Local news outlets have taken to chatting up the topic with lawmakers and other councilmen and women, yet, why haven’t we gone directly to those that are knee-deep in the trenches? How do the service industry folk, who often make up both the clientele and staff of local watering holes, feel about such an idea?

While other Metro Councilmen and women don’t necessarily agree with Owen, taking the stance that regulations on specific bars rather than a shift in ordinances is the answer, we’re still up in arms at the thought. If Tom Owen truly believes that our local and tourism business isn’t unabashedly thriving from 2-4 a.m. in bars (because, let’s be real, dude looks only slightly younger than Dumbledore and probably hasn’t been out past 11 p.m. in quite some time), well then, Councilman Owen, I beg of you this: Meet me at 2 a.m. at a Louisville bar and I’ll buy you a bourbon, and we can chat about how that extra two-hour window is not only our livelihood, but a huge part of what makes Louisville weird.

“The 2 a.m. last call is Tom Owen’s feeble attempt to pacify the Highlands Neighborhood Association and little else. Bars contribute too much to the tax base for this to be a real threat,” said eight-year industry veteran, Blair Rice. Rice is right – with bourbon tourism booming in a city of rapid and organic growth, out-of-towners are thrilled to find they’ve stumbled upon a Midwest gem with quality bars open late. With local cantinas filled with tourists and industry folks intermingling, and clearly enjoying our native spirit, it’s hard to believe Owen would suggest a city-wide solution for a site-specific problem.

“2 a.m. would change the culture of the service industry. Many bars and pubs rely on the hours of 1-3 a.m. for a bulk of their sales. A change could have negative effects on the little guy – the one who has followed a lifelong dream of owning a bar,” said longtime Louisville industry veteran, Brad Culver. “We need to think of the big picture before changing laws because of rowdy individuals.  People are to blame here, not independently owned bars.”

Let’s get back to my date with you, Councilman Owen, should you take me up on my offer. I’d suggest we’d start at The Outlook Inn, a Highlands staple and family-owned business that’s been serving Louisville for 41 years. We’ll belly up to the bar and have Megan serve us a bourbon (let’s hope Councilman Owen drinks bourbon, for the love of Muhammad Ali. I WILL make fun of you if you order a bay breeze, dude). We’ll gaze about and ingest our surroundings: the hustle and bustle of a crowded bar at 2 a.m. and all the sensory overload that accompanies that experience. Then, I’d say let’s move on to another bar, just to drive home the fact that, yes, they’re all doing good business for our city at this hour. Say, The Back Door? It could take us a minute to get a drink because it’s booming, but it’ll certainly be a stiff one. Hell, let’s do one more bar in your district — I’m trying to get you white-girl wasted. By 3 a.m. we’ll be doing shots with Vietnam veterans at Air Devils Inn, and I’d love to see you explain to those patrons why you’re cutting them off two hours early. I have no doubt such an evening would restore your faith in Louisville area bars and their late-night patrons.

In chatting up the topic with friends over drinks and social media, I found Louisville transplant Sarah McKinnie put it best, in describing her move from Boston to Derby City: “I still remember the first night I met friends at a bar after the restaurant closed. By the time the bar closed, and I left the after party, I was walking home as the sun came up. Shocked that it was almost 7 a.m., I thought, ‘Oh, this town is going to be trouble.’ But, standing in the sunrise and early morning quiet, I smiled to myself, ‘a glorious trouble,’” said McKinnie. “I choose to live here for the kindness, ease and all of the glorious trouble.” So, Councilman Owen, I beg of you, recant your haphazard Band-aid that simply won’t heal the wound that is Cahoots. Keep Louisville Weird. Keep Louisville rowdy. Let us continue on in our glorious, bourbon-soaked quest to maintain our city’s true spirit.