Fans of late night parties and after theater drinks may soon be out of luck. Congress is considering legislation that would essentially force every state to require bars to close at 12 a.m. — and there appears to be bipartisan support.
The timing of the bill makes sense. State alcohol laws around the country are changing. Utah’s governor recently signed legislation lowering the legal blood alcohol limit in the state from .08 to .05. On the other side of the spectrum, California is in the process of passing a bill that allows bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. rather than 2 a.m.
But it appears that Congress has had enough of the state-by-state variations in alcohol laws. A mandatory 12 a.m. closing time would “increase public safety and improve the quality of life for all Americans,” a statement released by the House Committee on Alcohol Traffic reads. The Los Angeles Times disagrees, going so far as to make the case that allowing later alcohol sales could make nightlife safer, especially for LGBT and minority communities.
Technically, under the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, individual states have absolute control over alcoholic beverage laws. The federal government can coerce states to fall in line, however. To make .08 blood alcohol content the national legal driving limit in 2000, the government told states to change their laws or they’ll lose federal funding for highways. Threats of throttling funding have come as recently as 2016, when Tennessee attempted to change the maximum allowed blood alcohol content for 18 to 20 year olds from .02 percent to .08 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the Tennessee government it would lose $60 million (8 percent of the state’s total) in federal funding.
The new proposition from Congress suggests cutting 12 percent of federal highway funding to states that don’t force bars to close at 12 a.m. No word on the timing of the legislation.
As for the timing of this news, just remember that it’s April Fool’s Day.