Last year, the bars in San Marcos started closing at 2 a.m. instead of midnight, a change appreciated by residents, business owners, tourists, and Texas State University students.
But the change, which also applies to restaurants, has meant more work for police patrolling downtown, where the number of driving while intoxicated arrests in the past six months has doubled from the same period in 2008, and the number of public intoxication arrests has nearly tripled.
20 people were arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated between June and December 2009; during the same period in 2008, when bars closed at midnight, 10 people were arrested.
In addition, the number of public intoxication arrests from June to December was 73, versus 25 in that time period in 2008.
However, there has also been a corresponding increase in police presence downtown which could account for the extra arrests – eight officers have been added to the department's patrol division in the past two years. On weekends, five or six officers patrol downtown, up from two in previous years.
San Marcos residents signaled their approval of the extension of drinking hours in a November 2008 nonbinding referendum that passed with 71 percent of the vote. The San Marcos City Council gave final approval to the ordinance in May.
Previously, bars and restaurants had to stop selling alcohol at midnight during the week and on Saturdays and at 1 on Sunday mornings. Nearly all bars and some restaurants are now open until 2 a.m., according to the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce.