ELIZABETHTOWN — The State Liquor Authority has approved Essex County’s resolution to end alcohol sales at 3 a.m.
The decision pushes bar closing times throughout the county back one hour from the current 4 a.m.
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At the meeting held in New York City, Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen reported to the two-member board that about a half-dozen Essex County residents attended a public hearing last week to weigh in on the issue.
“There was no opposition,” he said.
Liquor Authority press officials were not certain if the new restriction goes into effect immediately or if it has to be filed with the county clerk first.
Essex County Attorney Dan Manning was not available to answer questions about when the law goes into effect.
The decision also allows alcohol sales on Good Friday, which are currently banned.
County supervisors had been working to restructure hours of alcohol sales for several months, considering statements from business owners and the county Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
Prevention Team Executive Director Douglas Terbeek spoke at the public hearing, outlining adverse public-health and public-safety impacts from binge drinking.
Excessive drinking has a negative effect on quality of life here, he said. And it costs taxpayers a lot of money.
“A small percentage of drinkers, 17 percent, consume 50 percent of the alcohol and cause most of our alcohol-fueled problems,” Terbeek said.
Prevention Team organizer Mac MacDevitt had initially proposed a 2 a.m. restriction on alcohol sales.
But feedback from some bar owners in busy tourist communities suggested that was too early.
The 3 a.m. hour was a compromise.
“I think it’s very encouraging that the State Liquor Authority approved the 3 a.m. closing,” MacDevitt said Wednesday after the ruling was made.
“I think it’s an important first step to deal with some of the problems caused by binge drinking in our communities in Essex County.”
Costs related to excessive alcohol use are staggering, he said.
“In a recent binge-drinking study, the Centers for Disease Control found the cost to communities of excessive alcohol use is about $1.90 per drink in the nation — that is $746 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and includes things like lost productivity, legal costs, law-enforcement costs, jail costs and medical costs,” MacDevitt said.
Prevention Team research has found youth binge drinking closely follows adult habits in Essex County.
Steps taken to curb excessive alcohol use would help reduce a large burden on taxpayers, MacDevitt said.
“If we limit the hours of alcohol sales, we will reduce binge drinking. If we reduce binge drinking, we will reduce alcohol-fueled problems. If we reduce alcohol-fueled problems, we will improve the quality of life in our small towns and the health and safety of all county residents.
“And we will reduce the costs associated with alcohol-fueled problems that continue to burden our taxpayers.”
Binge drinking can be directly linked to impaired driving, violence and sexual assaults.
“Alcohol is now the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., behind tobacco use and poor diet coupled with lack of exercise,” MacDevitt said.
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