Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday unanimously agreed to permanently adopt a new policy allowing bars and nightclubs to serve drinks until 1 a.m. Patrons will be allowed to stay inside bars until 1:30 a.m.
The board voted to allow the later closing times on a temporary basis in May. The decision to accept the policy permanently took place Tuesday with little discussion. Police Chief Eric Blake said he met with several bar owners who told him the later closing times have not created additional problems.
The chief said the later closing times have helped reduce the crowds that gather on Circuit avenue after midnight. Under the new policy, once someone leaves a bar after 12:30 a.m. they are not allowed back inside.
As a result, those who gather outside to wait for their friends are less inclined to wait the extra half hour. Chief Blake said there has been no increase in protective custody arrests or noise complaints as a result of the later closing times.
“We have noticed that if people show up after 12:30 a.m. and can’t get inside they simply go home. My recommendation is to continue this; it has not been a burden on police,” he said.
Selectman Kerry Scott said she was skeptical at first about the later closing times. But after recently walking around Circuit avenue after 12:30 a.m. she was convinced the later closing times were not causing additional problems.
“I am happy to be proven wrong. My hat is off to the police in general this summer; they have done a great job keeping things quiet for residents,” Ms. Scott said.
But the new policy does have its detractors. Tisbury Taxi owner Chris Dacunto said it has been problematic for taxi drivers because it gives patrons more time to drink. And because people stay to the end now because they cannot reenter the bar after 12:30 a.m., he said a mob of people are out looking for cabs at 1:30 a.m.
“I wish you guys had talked to us before you did this. You guys don’t drive a cab, you don’t know what it’s like to drive drunk people home and have them throw up in the back seat . . . I’ve had more people throw up in my cab over the last month then all my years driving,” he said.