Legislation Would Push ‘Last Call’ Back an Hour

Scott bill would allow bars  to sell alcohol until 2 a.m.

DOVER – Delaware bar-goers could soon have reason to celebrate – and an extra hour to do so.

Rep. Darryl Scott is sponsoring legislation that would extend “last call” in the First State to 2 a.m. and allow bars to sell alcohol an hour later than they currently can. House Bill 216 would also require an additional special license to sell alcohol after 1 a.m. of $1,000 for small venues and $5,000 for large venues.

Surrounding states Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland all have a last call of 2 a.m., while New York stops serving alcohol at 4 a.m. Additionally, there is no cutoff and free drinks at Atlantic City casinos. Rep. Scott said that being surrounded by states that can serve drinks later puts Delaware bars, clubs and casinos at a competitive disadvantage.

“Delaware is a small enough state that bar and club patrons can choose to drive just a few miles over the state line and stay out an hour later. Our casinos already have to compete with facilities in neighboring states that can serve alcohol an hour later, which might factor into people’s decision about where to go,” said Rep. Scott, D-Dover. “This bill will bring Delaware in line with its surrounding states and level the playing field for businesses.

“While we certainly want to encourage people to drink responsibly and are not advocating heavier drinking, studies have shown that there is no correlation between an earlier cutoff of alcohol sales and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.”

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that despite an earlier last call, Delaware’s alcohol-impaired driving fatalities for 2007-10 are higher than the national average and higher than Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

HB 216 has been assigned to the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee. Rep. Scott hopes to work the bill when session resumes in January.