ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite a last-minute attempt to roll back bar closing hours to the restrictions of almost 40 years ago, Essex County lawmakers voted to change the time only from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m.
The County Board of Supervisors tally was 15-1, with Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) opposed and Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva) and Daniel Connell (D-Westport) absent from Monday’s meeting.
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The measure, which sets the mandatory closing time for establishments serving alcohol at 3 a.m., now goes to the State Liquor Authority, which will hold a local public hearing before it takes a vote on it.
“It’s changing on-premises consumption from our existing 4 a.m. to 3 a.m.,” County Attorney Daniel Manning III told supervisors.
Allowable opening hours would stay the same, at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon Sundays.
Before the vote, Supervisor Michael Marnell (R-Schroon) said he wanted to see the county go further and roll back bar hours to what they were in 1974, when taverns had to be closed Christmas Eve and Good Friday.
“I’d like to see us go back to 1974,” he said. “Good Friday would be closed. People could take the whole day off.”
The Board of Supervisors set the closing hour at 3 a.m. during an Aug. 8, 1974, meeting and ordered the holiday closures.
At a May 2, 2005, session, the latest serving time was changed to 4 a.m. and the holiday closures were repealed.
Marnell introduced a motion to reinstate the holiday closures, but it failed for lack of a second.
“I think that’s discussion for another day,” Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said. “You’re walking a thin line when you tell bar owners you have to close on one religious holiday, (but) you can stay open on another religious holiday.”
“I don’t think we should be picking a day. We should stay out of that,” Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) advised.
Marnell told them “nothing good comes out of” staying open later or on Good Friday and Christmas Eve.
“Bars should be closed up. I always thought it was a state law,” he said.
Canon was the only supervisor voting against the change to 3 a.m. on Monday, saying the tavern in his town opposed it.
Mac MacDevitt, community-based prevention coordinator for the Essex County Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Ticonderoga, had brought up the idea of shuttering bars earlier to the Board of Supervisors. He had asked for a 2 a.m. closing time, but Lake Placid business owners objected, and the 3 a.m. time was set as a compromise.
“We need to do all we can to prevent alcohol-fueled problems in our communities,” he said after the meeting. “The Board of Supervisors has taken an important first step to protect the health and safety of Essex County residents from the impacts of binge drinking.
“Seventeen percent of drinkers consume 50 percent of the alcohol, and they cause most of our alcohol-fueled problems.”
He said the alcohol industry works hard and spends a lot of money to encourage people to drink lots of alcohol.
“In this era of tight budgets and cost cutting, alcohol problems drive up the cost of law enforcement, health care and child welfare. Alcohol is the third-leading root cause of preventable death in the U.S.”
MacDevitt said individual towns can decide what type of alcohol outlets, if any, they want to permit in their communities, and he’d encourage them to take a stand.
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