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State Okays Earlier Closing Time For Warren County Bars

Lucas Willard

Some bars in upstate New York will be closing an hour earlier this weekend after state regulators approved a proposal this week by Warren County. 

On Wednesday, the New York State Liquor Authority voted unanimously on a proposal submitted by Warren County’s board of supervisors to move closing time for bars across the county from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. According to the Authority, the new policy is Friday.

The initial call for action came from Mayor of Glens Falls Jack Diamond. Diamond said he first proposed the idea to county government after a series of violent, late-night incidents in the city’s South Street district, an area with a handful of bars and nightclubs.

"More of the problematic issued that we dealt with in our entertainment district occurred during the later evenings," said Diamond.

Diamond, along with the Glens Falls Common Council, had originally proposed a closing time of 2 a.m. to County government, but that time was met with opposition.

"There was some resistance from some of the seasonal businesses in the Lake George area and up-county area," said Diamond. "I got very little feedback from the local bars in our community, but there seemed to be some resistance to 2 a.m."

Robert Blais, Mayor of Lake George, a village with a strong summertime tourism economy, said he considered the 3 a.m. last call in the final proposal a reasonable compromise. Blais said a 2 a.m. closing time could have hurt local businesses.

"The village of Lake George business establishments obviously have a much shorter season than those in some of the surrounding communities so I think the concern for us was the fact that our stores and retail areas stay open to 11 or 12 o'clock seven nights a week, and then many of the young people or workers like to go out and enjoy themselves after, and that wasn't giving them ample time," said Blais.

Linda Duffy, co-owner of Duffy’s Tavern in Lake George, said that the change in hours could affect business on some of the holiday and other busy weekends, such as Americade, but that she’s happy with the 3 a.m. closing time. Duffy said the change could even itself out.

"We'll save on payroll and save on some light bills," said Duffy. "We'll see if it evens out."

Michael Consuelo, Executive Director of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce said it’s too early to predict how businesses could be affected, but he did say it would be interesting if the change would influence customers. Concerns had been raised of patrons choosing to spend a night out in neighboring Saratoga County where the bars are able to remain open an hour later.

"It's finding if there's patrons who are going there in the beginning of the evening and staying there because these bars are open until 4 o'clock," said Consuelo.

Bringing an earlier closing time to bars in Saratoga Springs is an on-going subject of debate. Last year, a proposal to move closing time from 4 a.m.  to 3 a.m. did not get enough support to pass through City Council. Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has also advocated for curbing hours in the capital city for public safety reasons.

Will Pouch is the owner of Saratoga Springs restaurant Esperanto, a popular late-night stop. Regardless of how a change could affect his business, he believes there is not a black-and-white relationship between bar hours and public safety.

"I am firmly against general mayhem and violence that's a byproduct activity," said Pouch. "But I'm also against a simplistic solution that seems like a panacea that's not really identifying the real problem and certainly is not identifying the secondary consequences of taking that action."

Closing hours vary county-by-county. Earlier this year, the Liquor Authority approved a measure to change closing times to 3 a.m. from 4 a.m. in neighboring Essex County.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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