McGinn Nightlife Initiative Update: Slow Goings, Some Progress

Photo: Curtis Cartier
There were only two actual changes announced at Mayor Mike McGinn's Nightlife Initiative update last night. First, people will soon be able to buy parking passes so they can leave their cars downtown overnight until 10 am the next day. A good idea, to be sure. Second, that the allowable sound level measured in a property where a noise complaint is called in from will be lowered from 80 decibels to 65 decibels. As for the rest of the ideas he's been working on, like extended bar hours and more late night transportation options, the mayor sees those as possibly a "year long process."

The meeting, held at the Central District's historic Washington Hall, was essentially a publicly-held press conference, and included a status update and a few questions asked at the end.

Here's the complete plan so far, as released by City Hall.

Besides the tweaks to the parking and noise laws, there was a second bit of news, in that survey results were announced that show overwhelming support--more than 80 percent of the 2,400 people questioned--for letting bars serve booze past 2 am.

But changing serving hours will take the blessing of the Washington State Liquor Control Board or the state legislature. And McGinn gave every indication that doing that will take a long time, if it happens at all.

When asked how conversations with liquor board members have gone, he did his best to dress up an answer that roughly translated as "Very, very slowly."

"We recognize that it's a process, we've told them what we heard from the public, I've told them our interest in proceeding and asked for their help in making sure we have a dialogue," McGinn said.

McGinn announced two other "steps" the city would be taking immediately, but really amounted to promoting programs that were either already being used, or promising to improve others. For example, the mayor said he'll be doing his best to get more taxi stands downtown. And on the transportation front, he said that since its unlikely the city will be able to squeeze more money out of King County to extend the cash-starved Metro Transit's late night routes, he'd do more to promote Metro's reduced "Night Owl Service" that hits most of the city's neighborhoods, but, he says, few people know about.

After the meeting he also told Seattle Weekly that he'd ruled out any gaming options like slot machines or card rooms or allowing drinking at strip clubs.

All told, the message of the night with regard to improving the city's nightlife was "we're working on it." Not really a champagne-glass-raising proclamation, and, in fact, McGinn at one point apologized, saying "I hope I didn't disappoint anyone."

But being that some of the most important changes the mayor wants may have to come through Olympia (a place McGinn himself has made clear he thinks is full of untrustworthy politicians), it's not surprising that the wheels of change are not exactly spinning free and fast.

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