‘Place of last drink' ordinance reshaping last call for Excelsior bar

A city ordinance in Excelsior, Minnesota, is reshaping last call as at least one bar is closing earlier on weekends.

TJ McNeill has been bartending in Excelsior for more than decade, but recently he's been getting shorter shifts on the weekends.

“I used to work ‘til 1 a.m., now I work until 11 p.m.,” said McNeill. “It's two hours of primetime work. So that's tough.”

Two years ago, Excelsior adopted a liquor control policy that places a limit on the number of times a bar or restaurant can be the place where someone pulled over with a blood alcohol level of .20 or more had their last drink.

Establishments that exceed that "place of last drink" or POLD limit in a quarter must appear before the City Council to explain what happened and what they are doing to address the problem or face punishment, including possibly losing their liquor license.

"The goal is to reduce drinking and driving, get at the source early on the process,” said Excelsior City Council Member Greg Miller.

According to South Lake Minnetonka police, the policy seems to be working. Both the number of POLD cases in Excelsior and the average blood alcohol content in those cases have gone down over the past two years.

At least one bar, Haskell's, is closing a couple of hours earlier to avoid being the last place in town for last call.

"It’s hard to be the last bar open,” said McNeill. “It’s like hot potato. Whoever gets the last guy gets in trouble for the whole day. It’s tough."

City leaders say an earlier bar time is an unintended consequence, but it may be worth the cost for safer streets.

“[Police] think it is a good policy and they are trying to address that problem and address it upfront, which is a better place than in a later stage," said Miller.  

Many other communities collect POLD data, but the City of Excelsior believes only one other city, Mankato, has an ordinance that is similar to theirs.