The Saratoga Springs City Council will consider asking the county request from the state a new closing time for bars in an effort to stanch an apparent rise in public drunkenness and violent incidents that have sprung up as Saratoga Springs’ late-night (early-morning) bar scene has bounced back to life.
Mayor Meg Kelly on Monday added a proposed resolution to the city’s Tuesday night council meeting that would ask the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to formally request the state Liquor Authority prohibit the sale of alcohol later than 2 a.m.
The proposed resolution, which is included on Tuesday’s meeting agenda for discussion and possible adoption, outlines what city officials say has been a growing problem in the city posed by drunkenness that builds into the early-morning hours among bargoers visiting establishments that can serve alcohol until 4 a.m. on Caroline Street and adjacent downtown blocks.
“We have had a lot of incidents from the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. hours that are just increasing with the number of people coming into the city,” Kelly said in an interview Monday night. “At that hour nothing good is happening and a lot of the bars are now closing voluntarily at 2 a.m.”
As bars and restaurants in Saratoga Springs have reopened after the pandemic this summer, many people have observed a nightlife scene that has rebounded to at least pre-pandemic crowd levels. Police have also made multiple gun-related arrests in recent weeks and a fight and shooting on Caroline Street earlier this summer raised concerns among city leaders and residents.
“It is unfortunate that in recent years the service of alcoholic beverages into the late hours has brought far greater numbers of people out at night, and has created unprecedented problems in our city,” according to the proposed resolution. “Despite strong efforts from city authorities and bar owners, public intoxication in our downtown area continues to increase.”
The proposed resolution asserts that “violent threats are more numerous” and that “when large crowds gather the potential for serious injury is greater than it has ever been.”
City police have increased their presence on Caroline Street during late night hours and have partnered with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department this summer to include sheriff’s deputies in efforts to maintain a visible presence downtown. On Friday night, as scores of bargoers waited in lines outside of Gaffney’s, Night Owl and other downtown bars, more than a dozen uniformed city police and county sheriff’s deputies could be seen patrolling Caroline Street or waiting at the top of the hill where Caroline meets Broadway.
Kelly said the sheriff’s department has sent 10 deputies to help in the city on Friday and Saturday nights this summer, noting the use of resources that represents for the county.
The city council, though, is limited in its ability to force the city bars to close earlier. Bars are allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. under state law, but a county board of supervisors can request the state Liquor Authority to further restrict the hours alcoholic beverages can be sold.
Kelly said she has discussed the proposal with County Administrator Steve Bulger, who she described as receptive, and argued an earlier closing time in Saratoga Springs would benefit the entire county. She also said that she has discussed the process with state Liquor Authority officials and that there is no way the city could limit alcohol sales on its own.
The proposed resolution “finds that further restriction (of alcohol sales) … is in the public interest” and “asks the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to enact a resolution” requesting the state prohibit alcohol sales later than 2 a.m.
“It is regrettable that this council must again consider seeking such a resolution from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, but concern for public safety demands no less,” according to the proposed resolution.