Press-Republican

March 12, 2013

Early bar closings sought for Essex County

LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — An attempt to drain two hours from the mandatory closing time for bars in Essex County has been put off for a month.

A resolution to roll back the statutory closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. for taprooms in the county was unanimously tabled Monday by the Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee in order to get more public input.

Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) led the charge to reduce the hours that alcohol can be served.

“Nothing good happens from 2 to 4 a.m. (bar hours),” Morrow said. “(Closing earlier) saves on (DWI) arrests; it saves all around.”

He said that if Essex County approves the change, it would go the State Liquor Authority, which would hold a local public hearing.

“Then they decide whether they’re going to let you do it or not.”

The requests are usually approved, he said.

MANY CLOSE EARLIER

The change was requested by Mac MacDevitt of the Essex County Prevention Team in Ticonderoga, who said it could reduce over-consumption of alcohol in the county.

“There is a growing awareness that the over-consumption of alcohol has an impact on our quality of life, especially from alcohol-fueled problems like impaired driving, violence and sexual assaults,” he said after the meeting. 

“In 36 counties in New York state, including neighboring Clinton, Franklin and Hamilton counties, bars close earlier than in Essex County. Earlier closing hours will be a step in the right direction in increasing the safety, health and well-being of all Essex County residents.”

In 2005, the Board of Supervisors voted for a change from 3 to 4 a.m., which was OK’d by the Liquor Authority after a public hearing that no one attended.

Morrow said the bar closing times for surrounding counties are 3 a.m. in Franklin, 2  a.m. in Clinton, and 4 a.m. in Warren, with the Warren County Board of Supervisors currently working on a change to 2 a.m.

Morrow said state permit that allows longer sales can be obtained for special events or New Year’s Eve.

WANT PUBLIC INPUT

Several lawmakers said they want more information and public comment, however, before voting.

“I certainly would like to hear from more people,” Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said. “Before I do something that affects us countywide, I want to hear more. 

“I don’t think this (public support) is as cut and dry as we’re been told.”

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said he wants to speak with residents before voting.

“I’d feel a lot more comfortable hearing from people in my community.”

Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said he already spoke with the one bar owner in his town.

“It’s (the bar) closed at midnight every night. They don’t wish to be locked in, though; the one vote from Newcomb is to not do it.”

Supervisor Michael Marnell (R-Schroon) said he ran a bar for 10 years.

“I never saw any good come out of it (the 4 a.m. closing time),” he said.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com