LR considering proposal that would close 5 a.m. clubs hours earlier

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Little Rock's night life may wrap up a little earlier under a new ordinance the city is considering. It's a controversial debate that's anything but new for the city.

"It just gives me time to relax and kick it with my friends," said Andrea Johnson.

And there's no harm in wanting to have a good time. Johnson came out with friend and birthday girl Erica Burnside to celebrate. It's 11:30 p.m. and these night owls are just getting started.

"I get off work late. Why shouldn't I be able to get out and kick it?" she asked.

It's the same question nine Little Rock private clubs have been asking the city for nearly ten years now. They all have a Class{}B state license that allow them to stay open until 5 a.m.

"We have a lot of people that work shift work, nurses police officers. People who work at other bars and restaurants," said Phyllis Price, spokesperson for The Electric Cowboy in Little Rock.

There are only 13 5 a.m. permits. The state stopped issuing them over a decade ago due mainly to public safety issues and police being called from time to time. This recent debate started last year when a club owner asked to have his business open til 3 a.m. Now the city is considering closing all clubs at 2 a.m.

"It really was an equity issue," said Stacey Hurst,{}a Little Rock{}city board member.{}"Are we giving some clubs an economic advantage over other clubs?"

But club owners say it's the exact opposite.

"If we all have to close at two, we are all going to be after that same dollar," said Price.

According to the Arkansas Licensed Beverage Association, who's also behind the "Save{}Little Rock's Late Night Entertainment & Clubs"{}campaign ,the city's five major clubs purchase over $1.2 million{} in goods, services, advertising and alcohol purchases from local and state vendors.

"It's not just necessarily about drinking," said Price.

Price says it's also about jobs. These clubs could possibly lose 60 to 75 percent of their business under this potential proposal. That means over 150 lost jobs.

"We have a lot of issues that are very controversial," said Hurst. "This will be one."

Even if on the surface it seems like it's all about having a good time

"You shouldn't put a time limit on having fun," said{}Johnson.