As part of the annual frustration over unruly crowds and violence in the Caroline Street bar corridor, Saratoga Springs officials have targeted the patrons and investigated where they were coming from.
That’s resulted in accusations of racial profiling and a misrepresentation of the people who are really causing the problems.
They’ve addressed the degree and performance of the police presence, this year enlisting outside help to control the crowds.
But at the heart of the problems is the bars themselves. That’s where patrons are served alcohol. And that’s where the incidents that eventually spill out onto the streets and sidewalks usually initiate from.
Most recently, a 56-year-old South Carolina man was killed after an assault outside Clancy’s Tavern. Two men have since been charged with manslaughter in his death.
Not all establishments contribute to the major issues.
Different bars attract different crowds, have different problems and use different approaches to managing their clientele.
So rather than take a sledgehammer approach to addressing issues with the bars, city officials should look closer at which bars are responsible for the most problems, where the most violence generates from, the reasons why these particular bars draw a particularly undesired crowd, what steps these businesses are taking to discourage drunkenness and violence, and what the city can do to the most egregious violators.
Spa City officials should be watching what’s going on in Albany, where officials there are trying to shut down a popular nightspot, Cafe Hollywood on Lark Street, which some in the city have deemed a public nuisance due to a string of problems, most recently a fatal shooting.
Making a case to sanction or shut one down will be a challenge. In Albany, the owner of Cafe Hollywood argues that he’s enacted strong security measures to curb violence, including cameras and extra security, and that he can’t be responsible for what people do after they leave the bar.
But Albany police and city leaders cite the number of police calls to the particular bar and the types of calls they receive as evidence that it is that bar, and not other bars or the general atmosphere, that is making a major contribution to the violence.
Spa City officials should undertake the same type of examination of its bars to determine if particular bars are responsible for a significant portion of the problems.
City and state officials should then explore what they can do to stop the problems from occurring — even resorting to action that could include suspending the bars’ operating licenses or liquor licenses, fining them heavily, or shutting them down.
City officials have been dealing with the downtown bar scene for decades.
It might be time to take a closer look at the role specific bars are playing in Saratoga, and take tougher action against the most egregious violators.