Up all Night: Boston Explores Later Closing Times

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Posted March 17, 2014 by Stephanie Rineman in Eat & Drink
This spring, the T will begin a one-year pilot program to keep trains and some buses running until 3:00 a.m.

If you’ve ever hosted a friend from, say, New York, you’ve likely dealt with the barrage of questions about early closing times in the Hub. If you live and work in our fine city, you may have started to wonder the same thing: Why does Boston shut down at 2:00 a.m. while other cities continue until 4:00 a.m. or later? Later closing times in Boston is one of the first items on which new Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration is setting its sights.

“Boston has a lot to sell, but we want to make sure that Boston is a city that is open later,” John Barros, Boston’s new chief of economic development, recently told Boston Herald Radio.

Keeping Up with the Times

As Boston continues to develop and seeks to attract better talent—especially in the growing technology sector—the mayor’s office is aiming to improve these kinds of hiccups that bring Boston, for all its charm, down a few notches on the livability scale. Add to this growing influx of techie youngsters the already dense concentration of college students who are looking to go out on weekends, and you can see the growing need for more accommodating hours.

Downtown businesses may soon stay open past the current 2:00 a.m. closing time.

Downtown businesses may soon stay open past the current 2:00 a.m. closing time. Photo Credit: Stephanie Rineman

Keeping establishments open past 2:00 a.m. could be good for the city and for businesses in the long run, but doing so would be just the first step. Current state law bans the sale of alcohol past 2:00 a.m., with bars and clubs typically making last call 30 minutes before that. And, if you frequent the bar scene, you know that these times are strictly enforced, no matter how much vodka tonic you have left in your glass. A change in legislation would be required if businesses want to serve alcohol past this time. As for the idea of keeping the bar open hours after the taps have shut down? Dancing, at least for me, just comes a lot easier when there’s a glass in hand.

Transportation Options

Another step toward later closing times in Boston is getting our beloved T on board. Despite the T’s prominent place in history as the first underground public transit system in the nation, Bostonians often argue that its limited schedule prevents it from keeping up with the times. While cities such as New York run on a 24-hour schedule, up until now, Boston’s subway system has been quiet by 1:00 a.m. However, changes are on the way. Gov. Deval Patrick announced in early December the institution of a one-year pilot program that will keep trains and some buses running until 3:00 a.m. on weekends.

“Is this cool or what?” Patrick told the Boston Globe in December. “This is about how we make the system modern for the kind of economic growth we have been experiencing and will be experiencing. The folks who work in the innovation sector—they live differently.”

Anticipation Builds

While there has been some discussion about the disruptive effect the later closing times could have on neighborhoods, including those downtown, many small businesses in the area seem excited for the change.

“The push to extend hours is key to building out a thriving local economy,” said Danny Cordon, co-owner of Boston Brewin’ Coffee Co., which is located downtown on Bromfield Street in the busy Ladder District. “Small business always benefits from increased traffic and exposure. The city’s ability to extend the T hours also helps in defining Boston as a world-class city that has a supportive infrastructure for residents, workers, and visitors.”

The pilot program for the T is set to get started this spring, and we can expect to see more developments regarding later closing times in the coming weeks.

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