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Local policymakers should watch Boston’s bar closing time debate

Date: 1/22/2015

Here’s a homework assignment I’d like someone to undertake: are there more bar-related criminal incidences in communities where the closing time for pouring establishments is later than 2 a.m. or earlier than 2 a.m.?

Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing once again a change in state law that would allow later closings to up to 4 a.m., like New York City.

One of the arguments for it has been a later time allows customers to leave gradually from 2 to 4 a.m. rather than just rushing out of a joint at 2 a.m., which can cause problems.

I’ve also read the opinion in the past the best idea is not to have a closing time and allow bar owners to close when they want or go a full 24 hours.

I suppose the question is whether a 4 a.m. would only work well in a much larger city than Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee or Westfield. I will note here for the record that I’m seldom out later than 11 p.m. and would not be the target demographic for extended serving hours.

I bring this up as Springfield is once again looking at restrictions at certain bars and restaurants for a 1 a.m. entertainment license. The idea is, of course, if the city makes clubs turn off the deejay, make the band quit performing or even turn off the TVs, people would start dispersing.

The real issue is if you have bars that appeal to younger people there is always an issue with drunken behavior that often involves violence. One solution would be to ban all bars from a community, making it dry.

We know, though, that wouldn’t really work.

As we struggle with the outside perception of our communities – if I only had a dollar for every person who has made a comment about Springfield or Holyoke being unsafe – we should pay attention to what happens in Boston and if an extension becomes law there how it might work for the rest of us.   

Get onto the ground floor now

Holyoke was recently named by the editors of Popular Mechanics as one of the 14 best start-up communities in the nation. It was also the smallest community in the listing.

What has been seen in the past as a detriment – cheap space in former industrial buildings, century old waterpower technology – is now blazingly hip.

It was great to see a community in Western Massachusetts make such a description and if I won the lottery I’d certainly think about buying a building in the Paper City.

Not the way to do things

I certainly believe in the freedom of speech, assembly and expressing yourself. That is an important part of this country’s history.

Closing down a major highway going into a metropolitan area is not the way to convince the average person to embrace your message.

If the goal of Black Lives Matter was to receive news coverage they certainly were successful. If the goal was to urge people to consider the on-going racial divide in this country, they failed.

If your community has a defined incident of racism, you should protest in a way to influence both the public or elected officials. You want the protest to be peaceful and thought provoking.

You don’t want to do something that will anger a potential supporter.

That is what Black Lives Matter did in Boston.

They failed to grasp a fundamental aspect of non-violent protest. When a group decides to take an action that will make a negative impact on someone, especially someone who may not be to blame, there will be trouble.

During the dark days of the 1955 Montgomery bus strike, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. told a group of angry African Americans, “If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love. Remember, if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement. Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance.”

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.