Six years ago, the Brookfield Village Board approached the subject of 4 a.m. liquor licenses. They did so rather delicately, opting at that time for grandfathering in the handful of existing licenses — it’s now down to just three — and letting those expire when businesses changed hands.
The question facing the board then is the same one facing them now: How do you balance maintaining public safety and the public peace with making sure local businesses remain profitable?
Back in 2008, when the board decided to essentially maintain the status quo, we called for 4 a.m. licenses to end. Nothing has transpired since 2008 that would make us want to change our position.
Very few municipalities still allow 4 a.m. licenses. According to numbers researched by Brookfield police, out of 1,000 counties and municipalities in the state, just 20 have 4 a.m. licenses.
That’s not surprising. Nightlife culture has evolved through the decades and manufacturing businesses that used to employ legions of second- and third-shift workers no longer exist.
The 4 a.m. bars, while they still may cater to late-shifters, hospitality employees and hospital workers, also draw troublemakers. After 2 a.m. bars in neighboring towns close, and serious drinkers head to the 4 a.m. bars in Brookfield.
If there’s a serious incident at a bar in Brookfield, it’s much more likely to take place after 2 a.m. The incidents tax police services and the patience of residential neighbors.
Late-night license holders argue that those final couple of hours are critical to their businesses. That argument was made successfully in 2008. One thing that has changed for the bar owners’ benefit is video gaming.
The introduction of video gaming has been an absolute windfall for many bars, including several in Brookfield. Through August, video gaming machines have netted more than $2 million in total income. After the state, village and gaming machine vendor shares are taken out, the 14 Brookfield liquor license holders in the first eight months of 2014 made a collective $715,000. That revenue simply didn’t exist six years ago.
We’re not convinced that shaving those final two hours from the late-night licenses will have that dramatic an effect on income. Late-night license holders are able to stay open until 4 a.m. only two nights per week.
On the flipside, according to Brookfield police, those two extra hours on those two days puts an undue burden on officers, because the number of incidents after 2 a.m. skyrockets.
No one is suggesting eliminating bars or trimming hours of other license holders to earlier than 2 a.m. That’s plenty of time to enjoy a drink, some live entertainment and a pull at the slots.