PRC Resources

Alcohol Outlet Control

How do Alcohol Hours of Sale Affect Alcohol Problems? 

Kathryn Stewart
Prevention Research Center
June 2017 

Research increasingly shows that the location and operation of bars, stores, and restaurants that serve and sell alcohol affect the level and type of a host of problems in the community, including violence, impaired driving, neighborhood quality of life, and underage drinking. More and more states and communities are trying to make a difference by exerting more control over how alcohol outlets are located, licensed, and regulated.

One important element of alcohol outlet regulation is control on the hours during which alcohol can be served.  Some recent research on this topic is summarized below.


Effects of Outlet Hours in New York 

Studies conducted in New York State by Schofield & Denson suggest correlations between prolonged alcohol outlet business hours and increased rates of both drunk driving and violent crime. Their first study sought to evaluate how country to county variations in alcohol outlet hours affected rates of violent crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, and rape. On each night, allowed county business hours ranged from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. The analysis controlled for covariates including age, gender, and racial composition.  Results showed a positive correlation between longer weekly alcohol outlet business hours and increased rates of violent crime. They concluded that the total theoretical financial cost of allowing alcohol outlets to remain open past 1 a.m. was $194 million dollars in the year 2009 ($217 million in 2016 dollars).  

Their second study examined rates of both first-time DWI (“driving while intoxicated”) offenses and repeat DWI offenses as related to prolonged alcohol outlet hours. They found that for every 1 hour increase in weekly outlet availability, 5.78 more first-time DWI offenses were reported per 100,000 people.   Moreover, longer weekly available business hours in counties adjacent to offenders’ counties of residence also caused an increase in first-time DWIs reported.

Denson, T.F., & Schofield, T.P. (2013). Alcohol    outlet business hours and Violent Crime    in New York State.  Alcohol and Alcoholism, 48(3) 363-369.

Denson, T.F., & Schofield, T.P. (2013). Temporal    alcohol availability predicts first-time    drunk driving, but not repeat offending. PLOS ONE, 8(8).


Effects of Changes in Hours of Sale and Other Availability in Sydney, Australia 

On 21 January 2014 the New South Wales (NSW) State Government announced new restrictions on licensed premises to curb alcohol-related violence in Sydney, in particular, two well-known entertainment areas of Sydney known as the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD Entertainment.  The new restrictions included:

  • 1.30 a.m. lockouts at pubs and bars, registered clubs, nightclubs and karaoke bars in the two targeted areas;
  • 3.00 a.m. cessation of alcohol service in venues in these areas;
  • prohibition on the granting of any new liquor licenses across the two target areas;

The researchers sought to determine whether restrictions on the availability of alcohol in these  two inner-city entertainment  areas (1) reduced the incidence of assault in those areas, (2) increased the incidence of assault in nearby areas (where the restrictions did not apply), (3) resulted in a net reduction in overall levels of assault (4) and/or whether the reductions in assault were most pronounced during the daily time-periods when liquor trading restrictions were in operation.

The results indicated that assaults were reduced by 45% and 22% respectively in the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD Entertainment Precincts. In the Kings Cross Entertainment Precinct, reductions in assault were observed in all three daily time-periods. In the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct reductions in assault were observed only in the second and third daily time-periods. Assaults did not increase in entertainment areas adjacent to or within easy reach of the target areas. The authors concluded that restrictions on the availability of alcohol appear to reduce the incidence of assault.

Menéndez, P., Kypri, K., and Weatherburn, D. (2017) The effect of liquor licensing restrictions on assault: a quasi-experimental study in Sydney, Australia. Addiction, 112: 261–268. doi: 10.1111/add.13621.


Effects of Restricting Pub Closing Times on Night-Time Assaults in an Australian City 

In March 2008 the state government changed pub closing times in the central business district (CBD) of Newcastle, Australia from 5am to 3am, with a 1am lockout, effective from 21 March 2008. Under the lockout conditions patrons could continue to drink alcohol on the premises until 3am but no new patrons could be admitted. The pubs mounted a legal challenge to the ruling and on 29 July 2008, the restriction was relaxed to 3.30am closing with a 1.30am lockout.

The researchers studied whether the restriction reduced the incidence of assault.  They measured Police-recorded assaults in the CBD before and after the restriction and compared the assaults with those in the comparison community of Hamilton.

Results indicated that the CBD recorded assaults fell from 99 per quarter before the restriction to 68 per quarter afterward. In the same periods in Hamilton, assault rates were 23 and 26 per quarter respectively. The relative reduction attributable to the intervention was 37% and approximately 40 assaults were prevented per quarter. There does not appear to have been geographic displacement of violent behavior to Hamilton, i.e., an increase in assaults as a consequence of patrons either moving to Hamilton from the CBD after 3.30am closing or choosing to frequent Hamilton pubs instead of those in the CBD.

The authors concluded that the restriction in closing times appears to have produced a large reduction in assault incidence against a backdrop of a stable trend in the control area. 

Kypri, K., Jones, C., McElduff, P. and Barker, D. (2011), Effects of restricting pub closing times on night-time assaults in an Australian city. Addiction, 106: 303–310. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03125.x


Effects of Extended Outlet Hours in Norway 

In a 2012 study conducted in Norway, two researchers examined data points collected between 2000 and 2010 related to alcohol outlet hour changes and violent assaults within 18 Norwegian city centers. Their statistical analysis revealed that for every 1 hour extension in alcohol outlet business hours, there was a 16% relative increase in total assaults reported.

Rossow, I., & Norstrom, T. (2012). The impact    of small changes in bar closing hours on    violence. The Norwegian experience from 18 cities. Addiction, 107(3) 530-   537.


Effects of Limiting Outlet Hours in Brazil 

Prior to July 2002, there were no legal restrictions on alcohol outlet hour availability in Diadema Brazil; many bars remained open for 24 hours a day. Upon the introduction of a law banning alcohol outlet business hours from extending past 11 p.m., researchers set out to investigate the law’s effects on violent crimes, particularly murder. The team performed statistical regression and found that this change in bar closing hours was correlated with a 44% decline in the murder rate in three years following the law’s establishment.

Sergio Duailibi, MD, PhD, William Ponicki, MA, Joel Grube, PhD, Ilana Pinsky, PhD, Ronaldo Laranjeira, MD, PhD, and Martin Raw, PhD, “The Effect of Restricting Opening Hours on Alcohol-Related Violence”, American Journal of Public Health 97, no. 12 (December 1, 2007): pp. 2276-2280. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.092684 


Review of literature on changes in trading hours for bars and clubs

Trading hours of licensed premises have been progressively relaxed since World War II across much of the English-speaking world as part of a global trend towards liquor deregulation. Stockwell and Chikritzhs (2009) carried out a systematic search of studies published in the English language since 1965 which sought to evaluate the public health and safety impacts of changes to liquor trading hours for on premise consumption – namely pubs and clubs in the United Kingdom, hotels and taverns in Australia and New Zealand and bars in North America.

Outcomes included in the studies varied, including road traffic crashes or impaired driver offenses, emergency department visits, interpersonal violence and disorderly conduct, and alcohol sales data.  The majority of studies retrospectively examined the effect of increased late-night trading hours on levels of harms.

Most of the studies of higher methodological quality found at least one significant outcome indicating adverse effects of increased hours or benefits from reduced hours. Controlled studies with fewer methodological problems were most likely to report such effects.  The authors concluded that the balance of reliable evidence from the available international literature suggests that extended late-night trading hours lead to increased consumption and related harms. Further well-controlled studies are required to confirm this conclusion.

Stockwell, T. & Chikritzhs, T. Do relaxed trading hours for bars and clubs mean more relaxed drinking? A review of international research on the impacts of changes to permitted hours of drinking. Crime Prev Community Saf (2009) 11: 153. doi:10.1057/cpcs.2009.11


CDC Community Guide on Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption by Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale 

In a 2009 report, on the basis of sufficient evidence of effectiveness, the Community Preventive Services Task Force recommended maintaining existing limits on the hours during which alcoholic beverages are sold at on-premises outlets as another strategy for preventing alcohol-related harms. 

The studies reviewed by the Task Force assessed the effectiveness of increasing hours of sale by either 2 or more hours or less than 2 hours in on-premises settings. Studies that examined increasing hours of sale by 2 or more hours found increases in vehicle crash injuries, emergency room admissions, and alcohol-related assault and injury. One study found a decrease in violent crime. Studies that assessed the effectiveness of increasing hours of sale by less than 2 hours showed inconsistent effects, suggesting that changes of less than 2 hours in the sale of alcohol in on-premise settings had no substantial effect on alcohol-related harms.