An extra hour at the bars may seem like a no-brainer to some, but in a college town that extra hour of business has become the catalyst for a heated debate. Is 1 a.m. still a late enough last call for New Hampshire, or should towns be given the option to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.?
Passed in the House and now in the Senate, this bill would change last call in New Hampshire to 2 a.m. instead of the current 1 a.m. According to an article by the Associated Press, The House voted 208-123 in favor of the bill. Opponents argued that the bill would encourage more underage drinking while supporters argued that it would be more state tax money and that our last call should match the majority of other states whose last call is already 2 a.m.
Keene Mayor Kendall Lane said, “As I understand the bill in its present form, it does provide an option for local communities to decide whether they want that to apply in their community or not. So if it ever gets to that stage, it probably wouldn’t go into effect until January 1 of next year . That’s normally the time frame for legislation. At that point it would go to the city council and the city council would have to make that decision,” Lane said that he would not have a vote in the matter but that he does not support the bill. “We already have difficult problems late at night with the closing of the bars and I would not support having bars stay open later.”
Councilor Terry Clark wasn’t optimistic about the bill’s chances. “I don’t think that it will pass Keene City Council. I think probably it would only be one or two, maybe three votes to allow it. That’s just my feeling.”
An email from Councilor Janis Manwaring read, “I believe that there are a number of city councilors who do not support this new bill.” Manwaring confirmed that she, David Curran and Kris Roberts would not support the bill.
Clark himself had no problem with the bill, “Because it’s like a lot of laws; it’s not really the law itself that is good or bad, it’s the behavior afterwards. Letting bars be open until [2 a.m.] isn’t going to change the behavior of anybody.”
Councilor Mitchell Greenwald said through email “Personally, I am opposed to the later ‘last call’,” but Greenwald also clarified, “The issue has not been asked of the city council, and thus there is no official position.”
Councilor Carl Jacobs also remains neutral. “I’m not for or against it,” he said. “I don’t really understand what’s motivating it.”
Todd Tousley, owner of Penuche’s Ale House on Marlboro Street, pointed out, “This is the kind of town that has had problems with Pumpkin Fest and drinking so don’t be surprised if this town says nope.”
Even if the bill passes through the Senate and the Keene City Council, the decision will ultimately rest with the bar owners whether they want to stay open the extra hour.
Tousley said “I have a feeling that everybody will. Once somebody starts it you kind of have to play the game.” If Tousley had it his way, however, the bill wouldn’t pass in the first place. “I’m not in favor of it because I’ve been here 23 years and we’ve always done it that way. And you prep yourself to serve till one and it takes you a good hour, hour and 15 minutes to clean up and get out of here. I’m getting home at 2, 2:15 [a.m.], that’s what I’m used to. Now it’s going to be 3, 3:15 [a.m.] and I’m like I don’t really want to do that, and I don’t know if my people will. It’s an adjustment thing. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Garrett Plifka, a bartender at Cobblestone Ale House on Main Street said that the bar probably wouldn’t take advantage of the later last call.
Plifka said that as a bartender, “I’m against it because kids come out at 8 or 9 [p.m.] and they’re already pretty intoxicated by last call at 1 [a.m.] anyways.”
Plifka predicts that few, if any, of Keene’s bars would extend their last call. “I think all of the bars, they all talk, they all run into the same issues of kicking people out so I almost want to say no, they’re not going to really want to have it go till two.”
Barry Dennehy, the general manager at Waxy O’Connor’s on Winchester Street, did not think the bill would pass in Keene but said, “Given the option I guess we’d look at it. With our hotel guests some of them don’t go drinking ‘til 11 [p.m.] or midnight.”
Based on his experience Dennehy said the bill could actually encourage more responsible drinking. “When I was running the bars in England when they went from 11 to 1 [a.m.], initially it was bit more trouble because people were drinking a bit longer but after a while what I found was, because people had more time to go out, they weren’t rushing, and it cut down on binge drinking. For that extra hour people could just relax.”
Mike Finnell, a regular at Waxy O’Connor’s, voiced his disapproval of the bill saying, “As a patron I think [1 a.m.] is late enough for anyone that is doing something at that hour they probably shouldn’t be doing anyway.”
Brendan Kuist, a freshman at KSC, wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the later last call but said, “I think it’s a good thing. I think a lot of local bars can benefit financially from it and it’s a college town so everyone’s going to take advantage of it.”
Hannah Quinn, a 20-year-old junior, had a similar opinion saying, “I guess for the people who are 21, sure go for it. I’m not opposed to it. Most people stay out till one or two so why not do that?”
Sam Murray, also a junior, didn’t think an extra hour was a big deal, “I’m not against it personally. I don’t feel like that extra hour is going to be all that bad.”
Zach Pearson can be contacted at