Essex County Board of Supervisors
Essex County Lawmakers have come up with a compromise when it comes to the matter of when “closing time” will be here.
Members of the Public Safety Committee voted April 8 to turn back the clock on the time bars and restaurants can serve alcohol — from 4 a.m. until 3 a.m. Last month, the committee tabled a resolution that would have moved last call up to 2 a.m.
Mac MacDevitt of the Prevention Team presented the committee with information on cutting back on serving times.
“The CDC is very concerned about this,” MacDevitt said. “They see the way that alcohol is being used in this country as really an epidemic that something has to be done about. The alcohol industry is gearing up. They are getting very clever on how they market to young people and New York state is open for business when it comes to alcohol right now.”
MacDevitt said that any decision made by the board to change the hours would have to be reviewed and agreed upon by the New York State Liquor Authority.
“They will make the final decision. They will hold a public hearing here to collect information before making a final decision,” he said. “Alcohol in this state is very highly regulated here in the state.”
Members of the committee asked MacDevitt if keeping drinking within state regulated facilities would be a better way to deter the misuse of alcohol.
“In an ABC licensed premises, is binge drinking a concern there?” Lewis Supervisor Dave Blades asked. “I just think that a licensed premises would be able to handle the problem more than closing earlier and people going to other places.”
“It is a problem with licensed premises because when police pull people over, they asked where they got their last drink and they tell them it was at the bar,” MacDevitt said.
“If you close that bar two hours early, you do have people who are going to take that party someplace else,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “In a barroom or restaurant, maybe they are better off in an environment where someone is watching them.”
MacDevitt said that the push for the change in the hours was to “disincentivize,” the use of alcohol.
“You are looking to change the norm, and you are looking to change it over time,” he said.
“Irresponsible people are going to do irresponsible things,” North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said. “I really do not believe that it is as much the hour.”
Schroon Supervisor Michael Marnell said that there are other issues that should also be addressed when it comes to the abuse of alcohol.
“Six packs are now twelve packs and twenty four packs and they are getting even bigger,” Marnell said. “Stores used to not be open on Sunday and now they are. I think the problem is buying the booze from stores and drinking in uncontrolled places has become easier.”
Supervisors also spoke about feedback they received from their local bars and restaurants.
“Lake Placid is a little different than most of the communities in the county,” Politi said. “We do have a different economy and events that run well into the late hours of the night. There is a consensus in the Lake Placid community that a 3 a.m. closing time would suffice.”
“Although neither of them stayed open until 4, neither one wanted that right to be taken away from them,” Wilmington Supervisor and committee chair Randy Preston said. “We are a tourist county, and I think that we have to be very careful restricting commerce.”
“My concern is that I thought before you could get a special event waiver but that appears to be only for New Year’s,” Jay Supervisor and County Board Chair Randy Douglas said. “We are going to have our international softball tournament, which has games that go into the night, and I know that it makes up about half the revenue that the two bars in my town make for the year.”
“I did listen to the restaurant owners, and that is why I wanted to come forward with this compromise,” said Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow, who originally moved for the change last month.
Morrow added to the resolution an amendment to take a “Good Friday Law” off the books which barred the sale of alcohol from noon until 3 p.m. on the Friday before Easter.
“Nobody abides by it,” Morrow said.
Blades voted against the resolution as amended, saying he could not support the Good Friday change.