Many Valley bar-goers call it a night before 2 a.m.
Many Valley bar-goers call it a night before 2 a.m.
Elaine Bell

Much ado about 2

Like most of my hedonistic ilk, I was giddy with anticipation six weeks ago as the new, later last call time of 2 a.m. approached at the end of August. Who's going to complain about having an extra hour out at the bars, an extra hour to hit up the liquor store, one less hour before the bars open again at 6 a.m.? Certainly not I, champion, defender, and promoter of all things intoxicating.

Yet, as I'm sitting at the Yucca Tap Room on a recent Tuesday night nourishing my inner good ol' boy, celebrating the birthday of my cowboy troubadour buddy Andy Hersey, I'm looking at the clock at 12:10, hoping the jam session onstage doesn't last much longer. I don't think I can stomach another Cuervo, and I'm already thinking about what bullshit I have to get accomplished the next day. I'm yawning into my Budweiser as Andy and his buddies belt out "Compañero Blanco," half-ass wondering why my constitution is so damned weak.

Old habits die hard, and I've concluded that my biological clock just shuts the systems down as the little hand approaches one.

It's not an entirely foreign phenomenon to me. Five years ago I was living in South Florida, where each city has the discretion to set its own last call time -- Miami's being 4 a.m., like New York City. That shit really threw me for a loop. People rarely went out for dinner before midnight, and hit the clubs after that. For a transplanted Phoenician used to being damn close to asleep by midnight, that shit made no sense to me physiologically.

It made more sense as I acclimated myself to Miami's notorious club scene, where cocaine and ecstasy were as prevalent as Red Bull and vodkas are here. At hotspots like Liquid and GrooveJet, it seemed that around 2 a.m. every motherfucker in the club was gakked out on some sort of uppers, which they partook of with very little discretion. It was exponentially easier down there to score an eight-ball of blow than for a subdued stoner like me to score an eighth of decent weed.

I'm pretty sure that our new extended drinking hours here in the 'Nix aren't causing an explosion of partiers dipping into the Peruvian marching powder -- at least I hope not. When the time came, at the end of August, I inadvertently closed down my local watering hole several times, with painful results. But I wasn't the only one dipping my toes into the new uncharted sea of alcohol availability; the place was packed right until the end. Now -- for me, at least -- the novelty has worn off, and I dread events that keep me out to the very end.

I see a lot of bands play, and I was initially concerned that the new last call time would mean that headliners' time slots would be bumped later and I'd be a somnambulist by the time the band I wanted to see hit the stage. So far, my fears haven't materialized much. When I was watching Andy Hersey get his honky-tonk on at the Yucca, I warned him around midnight that I wouldn't make it until two, and he said, "Don't worry buddy, we're ready to get out of here in forty-five minutes or so." I wasn't there that long, so I can't vouch for the veracity of his claim, but I don't think I'm the only one whose eyelids are heavy long before two o'clock.

Local venues are observing and adjusting to the changes in individual ways. Cole Massey at the Old Brickhouse in downtown Phoenix sees the late night tendencies trend differently in different genres. The hip-hop and punk rock audiences stick around until the very last minute, while the pop-punk and ska aficionados bail out as soon as the bands are done.

Over in Tempe, at the recently expanded Clubhouse, the weekend nights are packed until two, but on weeknights they shut the doors at 1 or 1:30 if there aren't more than five or ten people in the club.

Other joints around town are keeping similarly retro hours on weeknights, like the Mason Jar and the Big Fish. Tyler King, who works for concert promoters Lucky Man Productions, says their shows are still ending around 11:30 p.m. "I don't think this is a late town like Boston or New York," he says. From his perspective, at least the last call time gives him some extra time to grab a drink after whatever show he's worked on is over.

When I initially asked around about how the different promoters and impresarios around the 'Nix would deal with the new hours, I heard all sorts of different ideas -- have an extra band play after the headliner; book two different shows, maybe an early pop-punk show and a later hip-hop show; simply pack as many bands onto the bill as will fit -- but I haven't seen any of these really implemented.

Old habits die hard, and though I'm sure that in a year or two we'll all think nothing of staying out until 2 in the morning, for now it's still very much a novelty that we partake of on occasion but aren't sure if we like the taste of it. I never thought I'd say it, but personally I'd be just as happy if the last call time had never changed at all.

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