Arizona Gov. Hobbs not a fan of extending alcohol sales during DBacks' World Series run
By Bob Christie
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Sports fans who want to celebrate an Arizona Diamondbacks World Series win – or drown their sorrows after a loss to the Texas Rangers – won’t have an extra hour to do so in bars across the state.
That’s because Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has shot down a request from a Republican state lawmaker for her to take advantage of a 2022 law that allows a governor to extend alcohol sales to 3 a.m. The law allows governors to issue an executive extending liquor, wine and beer sales if it is connected to a “professional or collegiate national sporting championship” event.
Hobbs spokesman Christian Slater said Saturday that the decision was made to protect public safety and taxpayers’ money that would have to be spent on police overtime to cover the additional time.
“The World Series games begin at 5 p.m., and extending the time makes little sense,” Slater said in a statement. “We are confident Arizonans will have plenty of time to celebrate Diamondbacks wins following the games.”
The local Major League Baseball team lost the first game of the best-of-seven series at the Texans’ home stadium in Arlington on Friday night, a contest that saw them carry the lead into the 9th inning before Texas tied it and then won on a walk-off homer in the 11th. The two teams face off again Saturday night, then travel back to Phoenix for the first of three scheduled D-Backs home games on Monday.
“I’m disappointed in Gov. Hobbs’ decision, but I’m not the governor, she is,” said Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, who had sent Hobbs a letter on Wednesday asking her to extend the hours under the new state law. “Regardless, I hope we can all come together to cheer on the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
Hobbs leaned on the directors of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control and Arizona Department of Public Safety to justify her decision. The 2022 law specifies that she should make the decision after consulting with the highway safety office and other public safety professionals across the state.
All three Hobbs appointees pointed to either overtime costs or higher chances that bar patrons will be more intoxicated if hours were extended to recommend against the move.
The head of the state liquor department, Ben Henry, said he supports economic growth in the state through responsible alcohol sales and consumption, but extending the hours is a bridge too far.
“Contrary to the portrayals of the economic benefits of alcohol sales, it is my experience that extending establishment alcohol sale hours will lead to higher blood alcohol concentration and impairment, endangering law enforcement and the public,” Henry said in a statement released by Hobbs’ office.
The head state trooper, Col. Jeffrey Glover, pointed to the costs of boosting staffing in recommending against the extension.
“Keeping current closing hours for bars and restaurants allows law enforcement agencies to maintain current staffing schedules, reducing the need for costly overtime. We want everyone to enjoy the ball games but be responsible.”
Gress said the provision in the 2022 law was put into a much larger bill with this year’s Super Bowl in mind, but with Hobbs just taking office a month before the February game he believes it was overlooked as a possibility.
“This is going to come up again and again for other events that may have an ending time that is later than the World Series,” he told Capitol Media Services on Saturday. “So expect his to continue to be a focal point for the leisure and hospitality industry.”
Another Super Bowl won’t be played in Arizona for the foreseeable future, since the NFL has chosen other sites for the next three years. But State Farm Stadium in Glendale has hosted the game twice before this year and was the site of the annual college football championship game twice and the men’s Final Four basketball championship in 2017. And the state is home to four other pro teams besides the Diamondbacks – the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Arizona Coyotes hockey team, Arizona Cardinals football and the Phoenix Rising soccer team – that could make runs for a national championship.
Gress noted that the same public safety arguments were raised when the Legislature extended the time that retailers and bars could sell alcohol from 1 a.m. to the current 2 a.m. in 2004, a proposal signed into law by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.
“I’m convinced that public safety can manage though it and they have managed through it,” Gress said, “In fact, there’s s public safety nexus to the provision, which is that you do not want a mad rush of crowds at 2 a.m.”
He said adding that extra hour would allow for crowds to trickle out in the three hours after midnight, since not everyone will stay until closing time,
“When you have large crowds, it’s better to handle crowd management like that,” he said.
On X: @AZChristieNews