Ask the Bartender: Early Last Call?

Why you’re not ordering pitchers at 2 a.m.

If bars can stay open until 2 a.m., why do they give last call so early? It feels like most places in town start closing at 1:30 a.m. and kick everyone out by 2 a.m. They'd definitely get one last drink out of me if they let me drink until the last minute. Is there any way to get that last drink? It just seems like bad business.—Bree

This has always bothered me about Seattle, as I'm sure it bugs other outlanders who are used to different end-of-the-evening practices regarding alcohol service. I know in other cities you can get a drink at 1:59 a.m. and take a reasonable amount of time to drink it while the bar closes around you. The bar cannot serve alcohol after 2, but you're allowed to finish your drink. As a bartender, I liked this process because it allowed last call to sneak up on people so that some customers, rightly, missed their chance for one last drink.However, Washington State Liquor Control Board law requires all bars to be closed by 2 a.m. sharp, meaning all alcohol must be off the tables and you on your way out the door. Many bars overcompensate for this rule by starting last call early. Some bars will announce last call around 1:30, but many use a more off-the-cuff formula based on how many people are still drinking and what they're drinking (i.e., how long will it take to make another round for everyone).The bartenders and/or cocktail waitresses need time to announce last call, take your drink order, ring it in, make and deliver your drink, and take your money. You then need time to drink it. All before 2 a.m. This process takes half an hour, and because bars have to make a big hairy deal out of it, those customers who might have quietly gone into the night after two drinks now will boldly go with one more hastily poured down the gullet.It's completely ridiculous, but it's the law. You won't get special treatment, but you're likely to be able to get the very last cocktail, and keep it, until 1:59 if you've been cool to the bartender. Persistence is futile when asking for a drink after a bartender has given last call, though; serving you a beer at 1:50, whether you can drink it in 10 minutes or not, pisses off everyone else who's been denied and makes the bartender look insincere.The worst thing about this rule is that it puts every drinker out on the street at the same time, which seems far more dangerous than letting some folks linger for 10 or 15 minutes. One month ago we elected a new mayor, who has proposed—as has been discussed in the past, and would be tricky to implement—staggering closing times as a way to cut down on untoward incidents in connection with drinking. Some say this might encourage consumption, but it certainly would cut down on how many people pound that last drink because they're rushed out the door.Got a question for the bartender? Send your boozy plea to

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