Press-Republican

March 20, 2013

Editorial: Cutting off alcohol sales

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Press-Republican

---- — Making a decision about what time bars must stop serving alcohol is difficult because it necessitates government intruding on what seems like a business decision.

But the issue has been raised in Essex County, and we share this thought: If the current 4 a.m. closing is maintained, it will be one of the few rural counties in New York to allow that much drinking time.

State law says restaurants and bars can’t serve alcohol before 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday or before noon on Sundays. But closing times for bars, taverns and nightclubs vary by county.

Essex County had extended closing time from 3 to 4 a.m. in 2005.

Mac MacDevitt of the Essex County Prevention Team in Ticonderoga asked that Essex County’s statutory closing time be rolled back from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. Besides drunken driving, MacDevitt pointed out that alcohol over-consumption can lead to sexual assault and other types of violence.

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow took up the charge at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, saying, “Nothing good happens from 2 to 4 a.m.” and suggesting that earlier closures could cut down on the number of DWI arrests.

A look at a state website listing alcohol-cutoff times — www.sla.ny.gov/provisions-for-county-closing-hours — shows that 23 counties have 2 a.m. closing times, including Clinton and St. Lawrence counties.

Around 20 counties have 4 a.m. closings, but most of those are in urban areas such as Albany, Buffalo and New York City. Essex and Warren counties are among the few more rural counties in this group.

A smattering of other counties have 1 a.m. closings, and a few mix times, like 4 a.m. closings on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 a.m. the rest of the week.

Any county can get a state permit that allows longer sales for special events. Clinton County routinely allows later closures on New Year’s Eve, for example.

The only hesitation to closing earlier would be the potential loss of business for bars. But it’s likely that people will just go out a little earlier. Few people who work in the morning can afford to be at a bar at 4 a.m., though it might have more allure to people who work nights. A 2 a.m. closing has not adversely affected business in Clinton County.

Some might wonder if a tourism mecca like Lake Placid needs a later last-call time. But we are guessing that even there, bars don’t have a huge crowd between 2 and 4 a.m.

If Essex County moves up its closing time, the change will need approval from the State Liquor Authority.

The earlier closing time could reduce alcohol-related problems without reducing business profits, so we encourage supervisors to make this life-enhancing change.