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Last call at Colorado bars could go later

By: IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
February 14, 2014 Updated: February 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm
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photo - Nightclubs will continue to close at 2 a.m. after a bill to extend bar hours was rejected.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Nightclubs will continue to close at 2 a.m. after a bill to extend bar hours was rejected. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post 

DENVER — Bars could bars stay open past 2 a.m. if cities and towns want, under a bill advanced Friday in the Colorado House.

The proposal would let municipalities decide whether to let bars stay open until 4:30 a.m. Current law prohibits the sale of alcohol from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Opponents raised safety concerns, saying it could contribute to drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been lobbying lawmakers to vote down the bill.

"Why do you want to put people at risk?" Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou asked lawmakers. "Why do you want to expand something further than where it is right now? It just doesn't make sense to me."

She added: "Personally, if I drink, I want to be in my jammas on the sofa with a good BBC movie or Jane Austin or something."

House lawmakers advanced the bill Friday with an unrecorded voice vote, setting up a final vote next week to send the proposal to the Senate.

Supporters of the bill say the goal is to give local governments more control and potentially reduce large, unruly crowds that let out at the traditional closing time. It's an issue that's been of particular concern in Lower Downtown Denver, a bar and nightclub district where crowds let out of bars about 2 a.m.

"The reason why this bill was originally brought forward is it's an effort to give local governments more options to be able to work with to deal with different situations that come up in their particular community," said Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran, who represents Denver and is the sponsor of the bill.

Democratic Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder opposed the bill, saying it will affect municipalities beyond Denver.

"This is a bill about a problem in one community that has implications for the entire state," Becker said.

The bill is likely to change as it continues to makes its way through the legislature. For example, some lawmakers are trying to make sure the final version includes uniform closing hours within municipalities to prevent bar-hopping, among other tweaks.

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