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Maconites skeptical but hopeful over new ordinance that moves bar closing time up

County commissioners narrowly approved a measure Tuesday to move closing time from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m.

MACON, Ga. — Some Maconites are skeptical over changes to bar closing times in Bibb County.

On Tuesday night, county commissioners narrowly approved a new ordinance changing the closing time for bars from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. Bars already had to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m., but the extra hour allowed customers to finish their drinks. It also gave bars a grace period to get people out the door. Now, their doors must be locked by 2 a.m.

Some bar owners worry the early close will hurt their bottom lines, and people who get off work late worry bars may not be open long enough to grab a drink after their shift.

"A lot of times, we're here working still, finishing up orders and things like that, sometimes late. So, after we're done with that, sometimes we're like, 'Hey, let's go grab a drink somewhere,'" said Wayne Woodard, who runs Ambitious Graphics, a print shop downtown.

Sometimes, all Woodard's crew wants to do is unwind with friends after a long day. A trip to the bar may not be possible for them anymore, if they get off too late.

"We've got to kind of hurry up and go about it, you know what I mean? Especially if they have to close, and be completely closed, by 2 a.m.," Woodard said.

Commissioners approved the measure to close bars earlier, hoping to get people home before there's a chance for any late-night fights or crime.

Woodard used to run a downtown bar but traded a shaker for a heat press a few years ago. He understands why the ordinance is in place, but he's not sure an early closing time is the answer to stop crime.

"Regardless if it's 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., if there's no police presence and someone that is disorderly is out drinking, they're going to do whatever. There's no consequence," Woodard said.

Adrian Lester DJs downtown some nights. He's seen crime happen on the job, but not too often.

"We kind of be like shaking our heads when unfortunate stuff happens," Lester said.

Lester isn't sure about the new closing time, either, but he's hopeful it's the answer.

"I hope it does. Hoping for a change," Lester said.

Commissioners also narrowly voted Tuesday to place limits on food truck hours on county property. The goal is similar: Get people home early.

This isn't the first action the county has taken to regulate bars. Last month, commissioners had another closely divided vote limiting the use of special event permits. Mayor Lester Miller says some bars used them to skirt around traditional alcohol licenses.

A couple weeks later, Sheriff David Davis suspended alcohol licenses at downtown bars Hoops and Recess, following a deadly shooting nearby.

Tuesday night's commission meeting brought the latest ordinance, which also limited hours for special event permits.

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