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City Officials Discuss Moving Last Call In Saratoga Springs

Lucas Willard
/
WAMC

A plan to change the closing hours of bars and restaurants in Saratoga Springs was introduced and withdrawn this week, but it’s not the first time officials have sought an earlier last call for the city’s raucous bar scene.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen introduced a measure that would have advised the State Liquor Authority to change last call from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. for businesses serving alcohol outside a designated “nightclub district.”

The city’s lively downtown has drawn ire from many over the years over safety concerns, especially during the busy summer months.

Mathiesen’s proposal outlined the nightclub district as an area surrounding Caroline Street. Businesses outside the district would have their serving hours changed upon renewal of their liquor license.

The commissioner said by concentrating the city’s police force downtown, it hampers its ability to patrol the rest of the city in the early morning hours.

“Our goal is to make sure that all of our cops get home safe to their families. Our goal is to make sure that people who come here have a good time and go home without being bloodied, and without having to be arrested and all the other problems that have occurred in the past. And we have believe that if we have a number of establishments throughout the city starting to stay open until 4 than the ability for police to patrol those areas will be undermined.”

Mathiesen argued that most businesses that serve alcohol outside of the city’s downtown choose to have an earlier closing time. He also cited a positive response from police in Glens Falls on Warren County’s restriction put in place last year to move last call back to 3 a.m.

But the plan was met with skepticism by other members of the city council.

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck had reservations over Mathiesen’s proposed nightclub district.

“I’m just worried about…maybe I’m the only one thinking this way, but it seems very restrictive,” said Franck in a long back-and-forth with Mathiesen.

Franck himself had proposed a measure to change closing hours in 2010. The defeated proposal to roll back last call to 2 a.m. during Saratoga’s “off-season” was met with criticism from local business owners. In 2012, another attempt by city officials to change closing hours, was rejected at the county level, on word from the State Liquor Authority that the city does not have the power to change closing hours.

Other members of the council also expressed their concerns. Mayor Joanne Yepsen did not completely discount the idea of a nightclub district.

“So I think we do we need to look at options. I guess I would like to come at it in a slightly different way and create a district who does want to stay open late until 4 a.m. and have them essentially contribute to a fee that would pay for overtime. Something like that,” suggested Yepsen.

Jason Southwood, owner of three downtown establishments, offered comment on the measure saying he’d like to see more public dialogue.

“I get what you’re saying and I kind of agree with it…there definitely needs to be more discussion on it, without a doubt.”

After the discussion, Mathiesen withdrew the measure. 

The SLA has before said the city can make a recommendation to businesses on their closing hours.

The efforts from the Public Safety Commissioner come days before  the SLA is to hold a hearing on owners’ of Broadway’s Stadium Café desire to extend hours until 4 a.m. The owners appealed the recommendations by the SLA and city to hold closing hours at 2.

The hearing is scheduled Tuesday in New York City.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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