EDITORIAL: Seriously study earlier bar closing times in Saratoga Springs

Downtown night as crowds fill the bars on Caroline Street in late hours in Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 30, 2021.
ERICA MILLER/THE DAILY GAZETTE Downtown night as crowds fill the bars on Caroline Street in late hours in Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 30, 2021.

• Earlier last call proposed for Spa City bars

• City officials discuss moving last call in Saratoga Springs

• Earlier closing time? Saratoga Springs City Council to consider asking county to close bars at 2 a.m.

Those are three newspaper headlines about the same exact issue and the same exact proposal.

In each, city officials, patrons and business owners expressed concern that allowing bars in Saratoga Springs to stay open until 4 a.m. contributes to more violence, more mischief and more damage due to excessive drunkenness, greater challenges for police to try to maintain order and greater expense to the taxpayer.

Opponents argued that the bars would lose business, there are other issues that contribute to the problems besides the late closing hours, and people would simply take their partying into the city’s neighborhoods, spreading the problem throughout the city.

Those headlines, by the way, weren’t all from this year. The first one is from 2010. The second is from 2015. And the third is from the other day.

Each year, the city has the same issues in the same area. And each year, officials lose out on a potential solution by proposing earlier closing times, only to have the idea die somewhere in the approval process. (The city can’t set the closing times itself.)

Obviously, the other solutions that have been tried haven’t curbed the problems.

Maybe it’s time for officials to take the proposal seriously and join most other states in the country and many other counties in New York and give an earlier closing time serious consideration.

But it should only be done after some questions are answered. Are there really more problems between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.? What happened when similar cities went to earlier closing times? Did bars lose significant business? Were there fewer DWIs and accidents? Fewer fights and less rowdy behavior? Less overall crime or damage? Did people just go drink elsewhere after hours and cause problems, or did they go home? Did police overtime and workers’ comp claims go down? (In the 2010 article, officials cited a statistic that between 2007 and 2009, 18 out of 80 workers’ compensation injuries (22%) involving city police officers occurred between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.) What was the reaction from other non-bar businesses in the community to the change? Have voluntary early closings been tried, and are they effective?

Instead of guessing, make a serious effort to find out if earlier bar closing hours would make a difference in curbing the issues the city faces every year.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, then perhaps it’s time to try something new — or in this case, something old.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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