Filed Ordinance Would Temporarily Close Louisville Bars At 2 A.M. In Response To Violence

Metro Council will consider an ordinance that would temporarily force Louisville bars to close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.

On Monday, council member Cassie Chambers Armstrong filed the ordinance limiting hours for alcohol sales. Armstrong represents the Bardstown Road area, which — along with downtown — holds most of the extended liquor licenses in Louisville that allow bars to stay open later. 

Armstrong said Bardstown Road has seen a spike in violent crime recently and that there are “bad actor” bars that are putting profit over safety. 

“As we see a spike in gun violence and other violent crime, it’s my responsibility as the voice of this area and of the citizens that live there to do policies that I think will keep that community safe,” she said. 

Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Chief Erika Shields, who showed out in support of the ordinance at a press conference, said that the measure is not the solution to stemming the city’s rise in violent crime, but it is one way to address it.

“It’s not going to be popular, but most of the time change in leadership isn’t popular,” said Shields. 

There are 171 businesses in Louisville with 4 a.m. extended licenses. Some of them have reduced their hours of their own accord already, said Armstrong. If her ordinance passes, it will take effect a week afterward. It will expire on Dec. 30, but Metro Council will have the option to extend it another six months. 

The city plans to collect data on how well the ordinance works and how it impacts businesses while it is in effect. The temporary suspension will also allow alcohol compliance officers time to investigate “bad actor” bars and will give police the ability to invest resources in others areas of the city, according to Fischer and Armstrong.

Several cities across the country close their bars earlier than 4 a.m., including Nashville, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Austin, Texas, according to Armstrong. 

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She believes public health data backs up her ordinance. 

“I will tell you, this is not where, when I started seeing there was a rise in violence in the Highlands, where my mind went to first,” said Armstrong. “But the more that I read and the more that I researched and the more I looked into the public health and public safety literature, I found very strong data about the efficacy of this in the literature.”

Three neighborhood associations in Louisville have passed resolutions asking her to introduce her ordinance, she said. One of those is the Tyler Park Neighborhood Association, which is near Bardstown Road. 

Armstrong stressed that she does not consider her ordinance to be anti-business.

“What we’ve seen in The Highlands is a few businesses are making it more difficult for all the businesses there to thrive,” she said. “This measure is intended to make it so that every business in The Highlands can succeed.”

The “bad actor” bars, she said, are booking entertainment to attract people who are affiliated with group violence, and they’re not taking safety measures like screening for guns.

Armstrong said that state law limits her ability to target “bad actor” bars individually.