City wants feedback on soft bar closing to control downtown crowds on weekends

Bar owners divided

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Crowded sidewalks and long waits for a taxi are common scenes in downtown Columbia, especially on weekends. 

The city wants feedback on whether bar and restaurant owners think a soft bar closing could solve those problems. 

It would give bars the option to stay open an extra hour. 

Last call is at 1 a.m. and all patrons would need to be out by 2 a.m., instead of 1:30.

"It would just give our patrons a little bit more time to filter out the door instead of everyone, just in a massive crowd, being pushed out at once," said Spencer Pearson with The Blue Fugue. 

He said another problem he sees on a regular basis is people crowding out front trying to find a taxi. 

He told ABC 17 News he thinks a soft bar closing would solve that issue. 

"They have a safe place to wait for a ride and they have a warm place to wait for a ride in the winter or a cool place in the summer," Pearson said. 

But other downtown bar owners disagree. 

Kenny Townsend works at McNally's, and he said a soft bar closing won't have an effect on the crowds. 

"I think there's still going to be too many people downtown," Townsend said. "They'll just be there an hour later."

Townsend also said it means they would lose money for staying open later and not being able to serve alcohol. 

"If the revenue stream is not there, why be open?" Townsend told ABC 17 News. 

The soft bar closing is only an idea and nothing is being proposed. 

Downtown District officials told ABC 17 News they were approached by the city on the topic.

District officials then created a survey to get feedback from downtown businesses.

There is no word on if the city will share the results of those surveys.  

If it were to become a policy, it would likely be voluntary. 

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