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Senate, House take different approaches to later last call for N.H. bars

A later last call is coming to at least some New Hampshire bars, assuming the House and Senate can reach agreement on a crucial detail.

The Republican-led Senate yesterday approved a bill allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m., instead of the current closing time of 1 a.m. The Democratic-led House passed an earlier version of the bill March 21 on a 208-123 vote.

There’s a big difference, though. The House’s version extended the closing time to 2 a.m. statewide, except in communities that decide to keep it at 1 a.m. The Senate version keeps the statewide closing time at 1 a.m. but allows individual cities and towns to extend their closing time to 2 a.m.

“This bill protects local control by providing for an opt-in provision, should any municipality choose to allow establishments to sell liquor and to stay open until 2 a.m.,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican.

The Senate approved its version of the bill yesterday on a voice vote without debate.

It now goes back to the House, which can concur with the Senate’s change, reject the bill entirely or seek a committee of conference to hammer out a compromise.

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