New $5M source for schools: longer bar hours

Steins (from left) brimming with Radeberger Pilsner, Warsteiner Pilsner, and Brauhaus Hausbrau.
Steins (from left) brimming with Radeberger Pilsner, Warsteiner Pilsner, and Brauhaus Hausbrau. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 27, 2012

CITY COUNCIL is brewing up a new idea - using booze to fund schools.

During Council's first session since the inauguration, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown yesterday introduced a bill that would extend bar hours to 3 a.m., generating up to $5 million annually in liquor taxes for the cash-poor school district, which announced last week that it must cut $61 million by June.

"We need to be . . . looking for unconventional . . . new revenue streams for funding the school district," said Reynolds Brown. "It's going to be tough for us to go back to the voters again, asking for another tax increase to fund our public-school system."

Reynolds Brown said that she got the idea from the Daily News, posted it to her Facebook page and received positive feedback.

The proposal depends on passage of a bill introduced by state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown that would let the city change operating hours designated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

But, as homicides continue to climb, concerns arise around public safety and drunken driving.

"Our main issue is the impaired driving," said Jenny Robinson, AAA spokeswoman, adding that the bill is not a good idea.

According to a AAA news release, 25 highway fatalities in Philly in 2010 were alcohol-related, and 459 statewide.

Everett Gillison, Mayor Nutter's chief of staff, said that the administration has a concern about public safety.

In a city with more than 2,200 bars, the measure could place a heavier burden on law enforcement, said State Police Sgt. Bill LaTorre, who is with the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

"The problem with an extended hour is, at that time of the night, it's ripe for more serious crime," and cops would "have to deal with a lot more people at a higher state of intoxication," he said.

In other action, Councilman Bill Green introduced a bill on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke for a charter change to establish a mandatory asset-sales-optimization fund, which would allow for the sale of city-controlled assets, including the airport and parking lots.

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