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Moorhead unusual in later bar closing

Minnesota's later bar closing time hasn't unleashed a flood of late-night drinking -- so far. In fact, Moorhead, where half the bars have a new license allowing them to stay open until 2 a.m., appears to be unusual in the state. One month after t...

Minnesota's later bar closing time hasn't unleashed a flood of late-night drinking -- so far.

In fact, Moorhead, where half the bars have a new license allowing them to stay open until 2 a.m., appears to be unusual in the state.

One month after the introduction of the 2 a.m. license, applications from bars wanting to stay open an hour later are well below expectations, say state officials.

"We expected thousands of applications," said Frank Ball of the state Department of Public Safety's alcohol and gambling enforcement division.

By the end of July, however, the state had approved only 388 licenses. Ball estimates there may be as many as 11,000 liquor licenses in the state.

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Because some cities have decided against the later closing time -- or are waiting to see its effects in other cities -- varied last-call times are creating some confusion among customers and worries among law enforcement officials.

"My concern is if we are not consistent with the time ... we are going to experience people racing from one bar to another to take advantage of a later last call," said Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner.

In Moorhead, nine of the city's 20 bars with full liquor licenses have the 2 a.m. closing permit, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Web site.

That gives it a higher percentage of bars with the permit even than Minneapolis, a leading proponent of the later closing time, where 179 out of 475 bars have the new license.

"Really, when you get down to it, there's a demand for it -- people wanted to stay out later," said Terry Kragero, owner of Mick's Office at

10 8th St. S. in Moorhead.

Mick's Office has been staying open until 2 a.m. every night, and the bar is drawing more business than Kragero expected, especially before local college students return in the fall.

"We could be open longer, if they would allow it," he said.

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Moorhead's position as a border city may explain why more bar owners chose to stay open than in other places around the state, Kragero said.

"It's a pretty good move for Moorhead to try to draw the people from Fargo, and we've seen a lot of that already," he said.

But Kragero, who originally applied for the permit to keep up with his competition, said he understands why many bars, especially in small towns, haven't applied. They likely wouldn't see any more business, he said.

"Seventy-five percent of them probably don't have to be open until two," he said.

At the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and convention center, Jennifer Seifert-Brenna considers the hotel bar one of those not opting for the later closing.

"One of my initial thoughts was -- I don't think we're going to get more sales on it, it just will be spread out," said Seifert-Brenna, the general manager. "It's going to cost us more because of labor costs."

In the hotel, she doesn't want customers disturbed by raucous late-night drinking, and in the convention center, workers need guests to leave so they can ready the room for its next purpose, she said.

Still, the Marriott will apply for the permit, she said, but only to have the option in case a customer requests a longer wedding reception.

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Despite the number of Moorhead bars with the special license, it's too early to tell whether the later closing time is causing the problems predicted by police, said Deputy Chief Wayne Arnold.

Drunken driving offenses have increased in the last month, but that could be attributed to officers cracking down during the Safe and Sober campaign, he said.

"It seems to be busier than normal for the summer, and the students aren't back yet," Arnold said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556

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