Will Omaha Extend Bar Hours?

Nebraska lawmakers seemed poised to approve a bill that would extend closing time for bars to 2am. Local city councils would have to approve of the change.

We caught up with a number of people at the Old Mattress Factory Tuesday night. One couple who live in Council Bluffs see what the extra hour does for local bars. "There are a lot of Nebraska plates there for the extra hour," says Austin Stange.

"There are more bar choices in Omaha than Council Bluffs," says Ashley Stange, "so it would be nice if it were open for an extra hour."

The idea to extend Nebraska's bar hours has been around for decades but has never been this close to passing.

"I think that a city like Omaha -- you could make the case for increased revenue on proximity to Iowa," says Michael Rittershaus of Omaha.

The general manager of The Old Mattress Factory near the Qwest Center at 13th and Cass believes a later closing time would put businesses like his on an even playing field.

"I think it's a good thing. It's going to keep the dollars in Omaha and allow us to compete with big cities in the U.S. For conventions and different concerts," says Pete Violi.

But won't an extra hour just give people more time to indulge? "The later you are out the less likely that good things are going to happen," says Rittershaus.

Downtown businesses like the extra hour so that late events don't have to wrap up early. But Diane Riibe with Project Extra Mile calls lawmakers actions "silly." She wonders why they are "asleep at the wheel" and not spending more time on drinking prevention.

So as Nebraska bartenders wrap up an hour earlier than their counterparts across the river, lawmakers are closer to making them stay later -- along with their customers.

"We're used to the 2am thing. It's normal to us," says Austin Stange.

The unicameral is expected to pass the change on Thursday, April 8. But there's another hurdle. City council's must give approval too by two-thirds of the members.

So five-of-the-seven Omaha council members must agree to extending the hours. Channel 6 News reached out to the six members on Tuesday night. Two say 'Yes' -- Ben Gray and Franklin Thompson. Three are undecided. We're waiting for one more response.

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