A possible change to the time alcohol can be served in Saratoga bars is now in the county’s court.
The Saratoga Springs City Council on Tuesday approved a request to the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to seek state approval to prohibit the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption after 2 a.m., which would effectively snuff out the Saratoga Springs bar scene between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Some bars in the city for decades have stayed open until the early-morning hours, giving rise to a storied nightlife scene that has rebounded to at least pre-pandemic levels this summer.
But city officials and police have grown increasingly concerned over the level of public drunkenness and a series of recent gun-related arrests in the late hours. The city, though, cannot limit the serving hours for bars in the city on its own. State liquor law instead requires the county board of supervisors to request restricting hours, a request that has to be approved by the state Liquor Authority.
The city council at its Tuesday night meeting adopted a formal request to the county board of supervisors, asking the county to make the request to the state to limit hours for serving alcohol to 2 a.m.
“It’s become clear to us through analytics and arrests that the hours of 2-to-4 a.m. are unquestionably posing a public safety risk to the community at large,” Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “We cannot let this public safety threat go on.”
Dalton said she wanted to work with the businesses that would be impacted by an earlier closing time.
“It’s important for us to work with the business that might be affected to offset any financial loss or perception of financial loss,” Dalton said.
Mayor Meg Kelly, who introduced the resolution approved Tuesday, held up a stack of a fake ID cards she said came from one bar on one night: there were over 50 cards.
“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 resolution approved by the council.
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Shane Crooks after the council passed the resolution said he agreed that an earlier closing time would benefit the city, noting a dozen arrests city police made over the weekend related to the bar scene.
“We have seen a large increase in calls for service and the number of people,” Crooks said. “The people we end up dealing with that late at night are highly intoxicated.”
The debate over an earlier closing time will now shift to the county board of supervisors.
Saratoga Springs county supervisors Tara Gaston and Matt Veitch after Tuesday’s meeting said the county supervisors would take up the city’s request but cautioned that any change would still be months away – if not longer. They also said they wanted to hear from bar owners and other stakeholders in what could be a lengthy committee process before forming an opinion of whether the county should approve the city’s request.
“While I understand the concerns of the commissioner and mayor, this is not going to be a solution to an immediate safety concern. This isn’t something that is going to solve a problem in the next week,” Gaston said. “The process is extremely important to get all the sides. It will take a while, but I think that’s a good process for such a major change.”
Veitch noted that both the county and state Liquor Authority would have to hold public hearings on a potential change – if the proposal gets that far.
“You are talking several months at a minimum, if it even passes the county,” he said. “We have bars downtown that serve patrons and police and sheriff; there are multiple factors at issue. I’ll keep an open mind and let the process run its course.”