Liquor commission backs off bars-with-patios rule

It decides to stick with present system until further study

PORTLAND — Oregonians who like to drink outdoors on a summer evening have won a reprieve. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission declined to revise rules regulating how late bars and taverns can allow customers to drink on outdoor patios.

At present, amplified music must end by midnight on patios, and sales and service can continue until last call at 2:30 a.m. The proposal called for amplified music to cease at 10 p.m. on patios, and sales and service to stop at 1 a.m. on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays.

The rules would have applied statewide but were written with Portland in mind. Noise complaints in the city have increased as more bars open in densely populated neighborhoods.

Most establishments now have outdoor seating areas to accommodate smokers, and neighbors hear the laughter and loud voices.

The city, responding to pressure from neighborhood groups, generally wants the patios closed at 10 p.m.

But Mayor Charlie Hales testified late last week that city officials ultimately seek greater flexibility than a one-size-fits-all statewide approach.

For example, time restrictions for bars in residential neighborhoods might not make sense for bars located in the Old Town entertainment district.

"All of us have to work together to figure out how to make this actually work in the urban environment in a way that does balance all the interests involved," he said.

Brian McMenamin, co-founder of the McMenamins brewpub chain, testified that he would not need as many employees if outdoor service was shortened by several hours.

With nobody entirely happy with the proposed rules, the commission voted unanimously against taking action.

Commissioner Michael Harper said too many questions remained to support rules that risk putting people out of work.

"The issue is going to go on forever," he said after the vote. "We have so many new businesses cropping up, and we just got to figure out how this is going to impact our community."

Commissioner Rob Patridge said he believes Portland can apply local rules to solve many of its noise and nuisance issues.

The city "has not met the burden and not done all it can do to prove to us that we need to put a proscriptive statewide rule in place that's highly regulatory, that's going to hurt business," he said.

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