Week after week it seems, we read about violent acts in the region fueled by alcohol abuse.
Beatings, bar fights, street assaults, domestic attacks — many involving serious injuries or death. The toll is far higher when crashes involving drinking and driving are included.
Many of these incidents, law enforcement officials say, occur after perpetrators spend hours drinking at bars.
Statistics compiled by police indicate that a very high percentage of the incidents occur in the early morning hours.
Aware of these facts, Warren County and Saratoga County officials have proposed in recent years for bars to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. instead of the state limit, which is 4 a.m.
Most recently — after a brutal beating outside a bar in Glens Falls — city 5th Ward Supervisor William Kenny spearheaded a new effort to shorten the nighttime hours in Warren County taverns, citing some alarming crime statistics.
Noting that incidents of violent crime soar past 1 a.m. or so, he has often said that “nothing good” occurs after 2 a.m. — and we agree. Apparently so do leaders of other counties across the state. Thirty-six counties have closing times earlier than 4 a.m.
At a recent hearing of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, about a half-dozen bar owners objected to the two-hour change, claiming that the late-night violence stemmed from lack of effective law enforcement, or was due to the misbehavior of merely a few of their clientele, and that an earlier last-call wouldn’t solve the problem.
They argued their revenue would suffer, and that bar patrons would choose to spend their time reveling in other counties, decreasing Warren County’s sales tax revenue. Worse yet, they said patrons were likely to drive drunk many miles after closing time, to a neighboring county to find a bar still open.
Also, the bar proprietors said that the late-night hours were primarily to accommodate after-hours gatherings of restaurant and bar employees, relaxing after work.
We at Denton Publications have seen the statistics of late-night violent crime, and they are disturbing to say the least. This roster of statistics included the fact that in 2012, the county dispatch center received nearly 250 calls concerning violent fights between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
New York State’s regulations for bars, prohibiting serving alcohol between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily, are among the most lenient in the northeastern U.S.
It is hard to understand why bars have to serve alcohol that late. Note that taverns are indeed permitted to stay open longer, they just can’t serve alcoholic beverages past the curfew.
Many counties have opted for an earlier last-call, as provided by state law. Saratoga County has not, and neither, to date, has Warren County. In Clinton County, bars close at 2 a.m.
Essex County, on the other hand, voted Monday May 6 to close their bars at 3 a.m., and we applaud their decision. Essex County leaders took the bold step of passing a resolution for bar closing time to be rolled back from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. Their action was taken after hearing from Mac MacDevitt of The Prevention Team of Essex County that alcohol is the third leading root cause of preventable death in the U.S., and is a key factor in the leading causes of death for teens and young adults — unintential injuries, violent crimes, vehicular crashes and murder.
Such alcohol-related incidents drive up the cost of health care, law enforcement, vehicular insurance and child welfare.
Warren County supervisors are now leaning toward striking a 3 a.m. compromise, which we believe makes sense. Kenny has said he will support a measure calling for a 3 a.m. last-call between May 25 and Sept. 15 and a 2 a.m. curfew the rest of the year. Such a proposal allows for later patying on the summer holidays and during major Lake George festivals.
This compromise accommodates the revenue concerns of tavern owners while offering the likely outcome of cutting down of criminal and violent behavior.
It also allows for restaurant and tavern employees to enjoy relaxing meet ups after work, while minimizing the incidence of drinkers crossing county borders at late hours for several more drinks. It’s unlikely that bar patrons will head out to a new destination at 3 a.m. for a few more drinks — they are much more likely to just go home.
Warren County leaders are now reaching out to their counterparts in Saratoga County to see if the two municipalities can collaborate on a 3 a.m. closing time — or maybe Kenny’s proposal — to minimize nighttime crime and DWI incidents.
We urge the leaders of the two counties to concentrate on the concerns of public safety and quality of life as they make their decisions, and not focus on the claims by a few tavern owners of their potential revenue loss.
In the meantime, we ask citizens to lobby their state legislators to enact a universal 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. bar closing time across New York State, or at least outside of New York City.