ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Board of Supervisors has approved a measure that changes last call for bars and nightclubs from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m.
The earlier closing time passed 15-1. Newcomb town Supervisor George Canon voted against it because a bar owner in his community opposed the change. Two other supervisors, Minerva's Sue Montgomery Corey and Westport's Dan Connell, were absent.
County Attorney Dan Manning said the resolution will be sent to the state Liquor Authority, which will hold a public hearing and then decide whether to allow the change.
Locally, the new closing time will have virtually no impact on bars and nightclubs. In Lake Placid, three businesses - Wiseguys Sports Bar & Grill, Roomers Nightclub and Zig Zags Pubs - currently stay open until 3 a.m.
The Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, which originally supported a 2 a.m. last call, was pleased with the board's vote. Mac MacDevitt, a community-based prevention coordinator for the Prevention Team, said in a prepared statement that "we need to do all we can to prevent alcohol-fueled problems in our communities.
"The Essex County Board of Supervisors, by voting to request that the New York State Liquor Authority roll back the bar closing hours from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m., has taken an important first step to protect the health and safety Essex County residents from the impacts of binge drinking," he said. "17% of drinkers consume 50% of the alcohol and cause most of our alcohol-fueled problems."
The resolution moved through two committees in April without much discussion. At Monday's full board meeting, however, Schroon town Supervisor Mike Marnell made a last-ditch effort to reinstall holiday closures for bars on Christmas Eve and Good Friday. In a 1974 resolution, supervisors decided to limit hours of operations for taverns on those holidays. Those limits were repealed in a 2005 resolution.
The board previously believed there was a law on the books limiting hours of sale for liquor stores on Good Friday, but Manning said in a letter to supervisors that there is presently no restriction.
"I'd like to see this changed," Marnell said. "I'd like to go back to Aug. 8, 1974. ... I thought, always, that Christmas Eve, all bars were closed in the county. ... Good Friday would be closed. We'd have a holiday. We'd give people the whole day off to honor Good Friday."
Marnell tried to amend the resolution to include the holiday closures, but no one seconded it, and it failed.
"I think that's a discussion for another day," Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said.
"I hate to say this, but I agree with Tom," Chesterfield town Supervisor Gerald Morrow added.
Elizabethtown town Supervisor Margaret Bartley said lawmakers shouldn't pick which holidays bars should be closed on.
"We're not picking Easter Sunday, we're not picking Christmas Day," she said. "It just seems like we should stay out of that. A religious holiday is personal. I just don't think we need to go there with that."
"You're walking a thin line there when you start telling bar owners that you're gonna close on this religious holiday, but you can remain open on another religious holiday that may be someone other's religion," Scozzafava said. "We're crossing a line there when you start getting into religious holidays. We've been down that road before with prayer before meetings."
MacDevitt said more can be done to prevent alcohol-related problems.
"Individual towns can decide what type of alcohol outlets, if any, they want to permit in their communities," he said in the statement. "Towns can request that the State Liquor Authority set common sense restrictions on how alcohol is sold or served at special events. And local law enforcement can learn how to work more closely with the SLA to bring problem alcohol outlets into compliance with state law."
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