An earlier last call at bars isn't going to prevent the late-night brawls and violence occurring frequently on South Street in Glens Falls, Fire & Ice tavern owner Doug Frost of Lake George advised the Warren County Board of Supervisors at a recent meeting. Frost continued that beefing up police patrols of the neighborhood would be a more effective remedy. The board decided Friday May 17 to prohibit alcohol sales after 3 a.m., an hour earlier than the present limit
Late-night drinkers in Warren County taverns will have an earlier “last call” in the future — if a measure approved by county leaders Friday May 17 is confirmed by the state Liquor Authority.
After a contentious debate at a county board meeting, county supervisors voted 10 to 9 to prohibit bars from serving alcohol after 3 a.m., an hour earlier than the present 4 a.m. limit in the county — the state maximum.
The weighted vote, favoring the more populated municipalities of Glens Falls and Queensbury over the upcounty towns, reflected a far wider margin.
Supervisors voting for the measure, primarily from Glens Falls and Queensbury, contended that closing earlier than 4 a.m. would help cut down on violence as well as other crimes experienced in downtown Glens Falls, particularly South Street. DWI offenses would also likely be reduced too, they said.
Those supervisors opposing the measure, primarily northern county supervisors, had argued that revenue in bars open late would suffer, and that the prevailing violence on South St. should be addressed with strengthened police patrols. Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson and others also had said that the 4 a.m. last call accommodated employees of bars and restaurants going out after work to relax and socialize.
“We’re in a unique area, and the later hours are important for resort businesses,”
Dickinson said, airing dismay over the vote.
Friday’s vote was preceded by a parliamentary challenge launched by Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood in an effort to send the proposal back to a board committee. Proponents of the earlier closing time said the challenge was akin to a filibuster, but the measure’s opponents said the 3 a.m. closing time had bypassed board committee review — a 2 a.m. closing time had been turned down by a 3-4 vote in a board committee not long ago. The parliamentary wrangling was quelled after several county leaders said the issue of closing earlier than 3 a.m. had been debated thoroughly over the past two months, and deserved a vote by the full county Board of Supervisors.
After the vote to recommend the 3 a.m. bar closing to the state Liquor Authority, Glens Falls Ward Five Supervisor Bill Kenny said he was pleased with the outcome.
He’d at first pushed for a 2 a.m., last call, citing statistics indicating that violence escalated downtown during the later nighttime hours.
“It’s about time,” Kenny said. “Three a.m. is a fair compromise.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty, who had opposed the measure as a hindrance to upcounty taverns, said the issue involved a problematic balance between not intervening how tavern owners conduct their business — and maintaining public safety.
“The vote outcome is what it is,” he said. “Now it’s up to the state Liquor Authority to see if they agree.”
Earlier, Glens Falls Ward 2 Supervisor Peter McDevitt had called for the vote, reminding opponents of the measure they’d have another opportunity to argue their case in the public hearings to be held by the Liquor Authority.
Geraghty continued that in the meantime, he’d be reviewing whether nighttime police patrols in Glens Falls should be bolstered by county sheriff’s officers — and if so, who would pay for it.
"We'll be working with the city to clean up their problems," he said.
Voting yes for the earlier last call were Glens Falls supervisors Peter McDevitt, Dan Girard, Bud Taylor, and Bill Kenny; Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe; Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino; and Queensbury supervisors Ron Montesi, David Strainer, Bill Mason, and Mark Westcott.
Voting No on the issue were Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood, Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, Hague Supervisor Edna Frasier, Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley, Johnsburg Supervisor Ron Vanselow, Queensbury supervisor Matt Sokol — a bar owner; Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas, and Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty. Glens Falls Ward 4 Supervisor William Loeb was not present.
The vote was cast soon after Lake George Mayor Robert Blais told the board he’d supported 3 a.m. based on his poll of village bar owners, two-thirds of whom said the earlier hour made no difference to them. Weeks ago, he’d voiced support for retaining 4 a.m.
“Three a.m. is a just, fair compromise that will help all of the county,” he said, adding that a 3 a.m. last call would spread to Saratoga, allaying fears that patrons would drive elsewhere to drink. “This will spread to Saratoga County and be helpful to the city of Saratoga Springs as well.”
Essex County’s recent endorsement of a 3 a.m. last call is now under consideration by the Liquor Authority. Hamilton County has a 2 a.m. limit due to a recent vote.