Two more hours can now be added to the late night watches of the students and residents of Huntsville, because effective Tuesday, Dec. 1, Ordinance No. 2009-59 will allow the sell of alcoholic beverages between midnight and 2:00 a.m. on any day.
After a third reading of the ordinance and researching the effect that similar ordinances had on other college towns, the ordinance was approved at the city council meeting held on Nov. 12.
In order to extend their late night hours, alcohol establishments must submit and receive approval for a late hours permit from TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission).
“I have talked to a couple of places and they have yet to hear back from TABC, but I recently talked to a TABC agent and they said that there is potential that [the licenses] could be issued first thing Tuesday morning and they would then be good to go Tuesday night,” Deputy Chief, James Fitch, said.
If their paperwork is not completed, then the change might not been seen until passed the effective date.
Many local bars will probably not implement the extra hours immediately, instead they will see if it is in high demand.
“College students are going to be the one’s who tell us what we are going to do,” Kerry Murray, owner of Murski’s Icehouse, said. “The two nightclubs will be the immediate beneficiaries [of this ordinance] because that’s where everybody is at midnight, so if no one is going to be here, we’d be crazy to stay open for two extra hours.”
Other bar owners feel the same way, that they will just have to wait and see whether the two extra hours are in demand. “I don’t know if I will be open everyday until 2:00 a.m.” David Zuniga, owner of The Stardust Room, said. “I will judge each day if I need to stay open later, but I will just have that option and privilege to do so if I choose.”
Many of the bars do not want to waste resources, such as scheduling more employees, running electricity, water, etc., by staying open later, so they will determine whether they should extend their hours permanently as the demand arises.
Adding these two extra hours to the Huntsville nightlife will also mean changes for UPD and the Huntsville Police Department.
“I think there might be some problems in the beginning and our workload will pick up somewhat,” Deputy Chief Fitch said. “I think we will see an increase in arrests for public intoxication, and driving while intoxicated, as well as an increase in possibly assaults, fights, and maybe domestic violence.”
UPD is also taking the stance that many of the local bar owners are for this ordinance, just to wait and see. “We could potentially have to change our shift schedule around so that we have more officers on after 2:00 a.m.”
The Huntsville Police Department is not going to make any changes immediately either. “We are not going to make any changes right off the bat,” Captain Wes Altom said. “Our late shift runs 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., so I have the same amount of officers on duty at 2:00 a.m. as I do at midnight. We just anticipate a shift in the workload.”
When reviewing the data from San Marcos after they passed a similar ordinance, the council noticed that their crime went up across the board. “They also had extra officers out, so there was a question as to was there more crime or were there just more officers out to initiate arrests,” Altom said. “We want to get objective data at first and see from the activity levels if there is an increase in crime and we will respond to it if there is.”
Some students think that this new ordinance will be beneficial not only to the students, but to the community as a whole. “I think it’s about time Huntsville passed this ordinance. It will stop people from traveling to College Station and Conroe after midnight,” sophomore, Zach Othold said. “Also there are less people driving on the streets at 2:00 a.m. compared to midnight, so it will be safer for the community as well.”
For or against this ordinance, it is easy to say that the nightlife of Huntsville will be different after it is implemented.