I'm a good 35 years — or more — past the time when an after-hours club held any appeal.
Where I once had nights that ended at 5 a.m., that's now when I get up.
But the world doesn't live by my circadian rhythms. Some shift workers don't knock off work until 11 p.m. A night of fun that ends at 11 p.m. for someone who had a 5 p.m. quitting time would end at 5 a.m. for the shift worker who gets off at 11 p.m. Entertainment in those hours, after Waffle House and EZ Mart, is limited. And it will soon be more limited if some city directors have their way.
For years, city directors have talked about a local ordinance to rein in private clubs, a handful of which still have old state permits that allow them to stay open until 5 a.m. Led by City Director Joan Adcock, the City Board seems to be moving toward limitation on the hours.
Adcock wants to make closing time 2 a.m. At deadline for this column, sources said a compromise was under discussion that would allow a 3 a.m. closing time on Thursday and Friday nights.
That early closing could well mean the demise of some businesses.
Midtown Billiards, Electric Cowboy, Club Elevations, Discovery and Triniti are the five largest late-night operators. Salut and Paper Moon also open regularly until 5 a.m. Club operators are reportedly agreeable to stiffer private security requirements after hours, to address public safety concerns. But that won't soothe Adcock. And it appears she has growing support on the City Board.
It's a rare major city that doesn't offer late-night options for night workers and the party-till-you-drop crowd, both residents and tourists. Agreed: These clubs exist to sell drinks. They rarely get a buttoned-down crowd. Trouble can happen. Police make regular calls, though not often for major crimes.
Consider: Last weekend, a woman was shot in her yard on 11th Street; the Sunday afternoon procession of cruisers in Murray Park led to a wreck, gunshots and a wild high-speed chase; a family neighborhood festival in Pine Bluff led to one death and three wounded. Private clubs passed the weekend comparatively uneventfully.
Other Arkansas cities have rolled back 5 a.m. closings, to the relief of police. As little as this would affect me, the free trader in me still wonders why the City Board is so determined to meddle. The driving force seems to be simple moral disapproval.
Joan Adcock has long fought the clubs, and not just late-night venues. She was particularly aggressive in fighting a conventional Latino club in the Southwest Little Rock area that is the at-large director's voter base. She has meddled, too, in the taco truck business, once complaining about their operations and prompting close code inspections rarely given to conventional restaurants.
In Adcock's world, some businesses are to be comforted and others afflicted. She's pressed for an unconstitutionally pre-emptive strike against Uber and Lyft, the cell phone-driven ride sharing services, which have been looking for drivers to enter the Little Rock market. Adcock's work protects the existing taxi monopoly enjoyed by the sometimes hit-or-miss service of a cab company operated by an Adcock political contributor who's also participated in publicity-winning stunts (van donations, free rides to the polls) that helped Adcock.
Perhaps if the late-night clubs would arrange some late-night taxi deals with Adcock's cab-operating friend, some accommodations could be reached.
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