Mayor McGinn's Consultant on Expanding Booze Hours is Funded by the Booze Industry

Upon announcing his proposal earlier this week to get rid of last call and allow bars and clubs to serve liquor around the clock, Mayor McGinn released a consultant's report [pdf] that finds Seattle to be "a model city" for such a plan.

We all know that consultants are happy to arrive at whatever conclusions their paying client wishes to hear. But the enthusiasm of the Responsible Hospitality Institute is doubly suspect, given who underwrites them.

Is it the auto insurance industry perhaps? Or the health insurance industry? Not exactly.

It's Diageo, the biggest liquor company in the world, and maker of Jose Cuervo, Ketel One, Captain Morgan, and Bushmills, among many other brands. The Responsible Hospitality Institute's two other main underwriters are the not-quite-disinterested National Beer Wholesalers Association and a group called Wine and Spirits of America, Inc. (the national wine and spirits wholesalers association).

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Would you take policy advice from this man?
So it's perhaps no surprise that the Institute's report makes for, at times, some unintentionally funny reading. In one section, the report's author, RHI exec Jim Peters, acknowledges that many studies have found that extending bar hours "increases alcohol-related harms." (The harms being such things as hospital admittance arrests, resident complaints, DUI arrests, etc.) However, Peters contends that the people doing these studies are a bunch of Debbie Downers.

"One of the difficulties in utilizing" such studies, Peters tells us, is "they are based primarily on a 'harm' perspective." Instead of being so focused on the negative side of the equation, he says, we should be measuring "the positive features of alcohol consumption, such as sociability, relaxation...[and] increased food and beverage sales." Yes, especially those.

The rousing climax comes at the end, when Peters declares: "The transition of 9-to-5 institutional systems to a 24/7 global economy has begun across North America. Some cities, such as Seattle, are embracing this transition..."

Ah, so shrewd of you, Mr. Peters, to invoke Seattle's thirst for global economic domination. And while he does not offer any direct proof of a connection between 24-hour bars and success in the 24/7 global economy, he does provide a list of U.S. locales that currently offer all-night boozing. It consists of the following three international powerhouses: Birmingham, Alabama; Mobile, Alabama; and the state of Louisiana.

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Storming the world economy in Mobile.
McGinn spokesperson Aaron Pickus tells SW's Laura Onstot that the city paid $10,000 for the study--which (in addition to the cheerleading) offers extensive information about alcohol regulation around the U.S. and gives recommendations about how to implement, assess, and manage flexible hours for bars. The cost of the study was split between the Mayor's office and the Office of Economic Development.

As for the Institute's general credibility, Pickus notes that "RHI is recognized as a national expert on the issue of nightlife management and are supported by many public enforcement organizations, cities across North America, businesses in the hospitality industry, social services and economists." The Institute's board includes representatives from those sectors.

 
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