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Gaffney's pays fine, agrees to list of terms before reopening

Gaffney's in Saratoga Springs
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Gaffney's in Saratoga Springs

A downtown Saratoga Springs bar is taking steps to reopen and has agreed to a set of terms from the New York State Liquor Authority after being shuttered last month.

Gaffney’s on Caroline Street in downtown Saratoga Springs had its liquor license suspended on May 3rd, following a string of violent incidents linked to the bar.

The suspension came a day after the City of Saratoga Springs ordered the bar shuttered after it bounced checks related to city permitting fees.

At this week’s Saratoga Springs city council meeting, Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino outlined terms of an agreement Gaffney’s reached with the SLA in order to reopen.

“Briefly, there are 10 specific points that Gaffney’s is agreeing to.”

The deal was approved at the State Liquor Authority’s June 8th meeting. Montagnino detailed the list of terms:

“The appointment of a designated senior employee who will be responsible for managing the premises and acting as a liaison between Gaffney’s and the city; the electronic wandering of all patrons entering the premises during peak weekend hours; the implementation and enforcement of a dress code which includes a ban on fanny packs, backpacks, large bags and any known gang-related apparel; credentials for security guards to be provided to the police department; a single point of entry; training of all employees on de-escalation policies; and what I find most important is an agreement that patrons will not be allowed into the establishment after 1:30 a.m., last call would be 1:45 and lights off by 2:30 a.m.”

Bars are allowed to remain open in Saratoga County until 4 a.m.

Debate over whether to roll back bar operating hours due to late-night violence has swirled for years in Saratoga Springs, but would require action at the county level. While city councilors and the city’s county supervisors have backed the idea, it has failed to gain the support of the County Board of Supervisors.

Between January 2021 and March 2022, the police department tallied 65 case reports associated with Gaffney’s, on top of the many other calls related to violence in the city’s nightclub district.

Montagnino continued reading from the list of terms:

“There will be an instruction that all employees cooperate at all times with the city and with the police department; there will be a – what was originally thought of as a soft opening and which now under the terms of the agreement with the State Liquor Authority is a permanent situation pending any modification to the liquor license – and that is there will be a limitation to recorded music only there will be no live music, there will be no DJs. Gaffney has also suggested regular meetings between their ownership and the police department to review and discuss compliance with their commitment and they understand that the support, any support given to them by the city is conditioned upon their ongoing compliance with these terms.”

Gaffney’s issued a statement on June 14th after reaching an agreement with the SLA, saying:

"We appreciate the due diligence by the State Liquor Authority for Gaffney's to reach an agreement that will allow us to reopen our establishment at some point in the near future. The conditions set by both Gaffney's and the SLA keep the safety of our guests of paramount importance, which has always been a top priority. As reported in the media, the challenges Caroline Street has faced have continued since we closed more than six weeks ago. We intend to help lead those efforts in collaboration with fellow establishments and the City. Further updates regarding our operations and our future will be announced in the coming weeks ahead."

This week, Gaffney’s paid the SLA a $70,000 fine.

Montganino added Tuesday that along with the terms of the agreement with the SLA, Gaffney’s must also address outstanding issues with the city before reopening.

“I note also for the record that in reviewing the part 136 application, and in my discussions with Assistant Chief Dyer, who happens to be here this evening, there are a couple of Fire Department violations, other code violations that need to be cleared up. So Gaffney’s would like to open soon, they still have a few hurdles to overcome. And I wanted to make sure that the public was aware of the commitment that they voluntarily entered into in order to hopefully reestablish their presence in our community.”

Among community members critical of Gaffney’s is Saratoga County Chamber President Todd Shimkus.

“Gaffney’s has done just a terrible job for a number of years now in terms of keeping people safe. And we’re all looking for them to do way better than they’ve ever done. So hopefully, hopefully they are successful here,” said Shimkus.

The busy summer track season in Saratoga Springs begins in mid-July.

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