ELIZABETHTOWN — All five people who spoke at a State Liquor Authority hearing heartily supported turning off alcohol sales in Essex County an hour earlier every morning.
Bars in Essex County are currently required to stop serving alcohol at 4 a.m., but the Essex County Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution to roll that back to 3 a.m.
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The State Liquor Authority must OK the earlier closing times before they can take effect, and it held a public hearing Thursday evening in the Old County Courthouse in Elizabethtown to take comments.
The authority will vote on the county’s request at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Board Secretary Jacqueline Held said.
“They will determine if yes, the hours should be amended, or if no, they should not.”
‘LOUD BAR PATRONS’
Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen and Held presided over the hearing, which began with Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) talking about why he proposed the 3 a.m. closing time.
“I brought it up; the first one (proposal) was for 2 o’clock. But some of our restaurant owners in North Elba, Lake Placid protested,” he said.
“There was opposition from that side of the county. I figured 3 o’clock was a good compromise for now.”
Some restaurant-bar owners in Lake Placid say that because it’s a resort community, they have people coming in later to eat and drink alcohol, and their businesses would be economically impacted by a change to 2 a.m.
One Lake Placid lodging owner said his business is negatively impacted by the later closing hours, however.
Vic Kraus, owner of Mountain View Inn on Main Street, said his guests are often awakened by loud bar patrons.
“This has been a longstanding problem. The nightclub situation in downtown Lake Placid is pretty bad when it gets to be 3:30, 4 in the morning.
“It’s crass. People are coming out, shouting obscenities, screeching tires.”
Kraus said they’ve worked with Lake Placid Village Police to try to maintain order.
“They’ve (police) done everything they can. When you have people (guests) standing at a lodging desk saying they are never coming back, it’s pretty bad.”
Kraus said he welcomes shutting alcohol sales down as early as possible.
“It’s (4 a.m.) much too late. I really think the closing time should be 2 a.m.”
Ticonderoga Town Police Chief Mark Johns said altercations outside bars at closing time are a problem in his community.
“The Town of Ticonderoga is supportive of the change to 3 a.m. When it changed from 3 o’clock to 4 o’clock, we found patrons would stay another half hour.
“We would have confrontations.”
Supervisor Michael Marnell (R-Schroon) said he once ran a place in Schroon Lake that served alcohol.
“I’ve never seen anything happen after 2 o’clock (at a bar) that was good.”
The earlier closing hours were originally proposed by Community Prevention Coordinator Mac MacDevitt of the Essex County Prevention Team in Ticonderoga.
“The alcohol industry has worked hard and spent a lot of money to recruit young drinkers and to encourage New York state and Essex County residents to drink lots of alcohol,” he said at the hearing.
He said late-night bars claim they are providing a public service by providing food for late-arriving travelers.
“The record suggests that these bars might be a net liability for tourism and quality of life for the residents of the area.”
Prevention Team Executive Director Douglas Terbeek, who also spoke at the hearing, said the Board of Supervisors had debated and discussed the closing times extensively before passing a resolution for 3 a.m.
“The public-health and public-safety impact of binge drinking was considered in the decision-making process, as well as the obvious economic concerns of a small number of bar owners.”
He said over-consumption of alcohol has a negative impact on quality of life.
“A small percentage of drinkers, 17 percent, consume 50 percent of the alcohol and cause most of our alcohol-fueled problems. Alcohol is about negotiation along a continuum — the negotiation requires balancing the economic benefits of businesses and the rights of adults to drink in low-risk ways to ensure the protection of public safety and public health.”
Rosen said the State Liquor Authority has a three-person board, with one seat vacant. He said he and Commissioner Jeanique Greene will be the ones voting on the earlier closing time Wednesday.
The meeting is at 10:10 a.m. at the authority’s New York City office.
“This resolution will be on the calendar and considered by the board that day,” Rosen said. “We’ll have an answer for you Wednesday.”
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