SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim is attempting to nudge Saratoga County towards a historically untraveled path.
On the table for Monday’s City Council meeting is a request for the county Board of Supervisors to trim bar closing hours from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. The legislation was crafted in response to an exchange of gunfire on Broadway just days before Thanksgiving.
The GOP-dominated board has shot down similar requests within the last ten years, starting with former Public Safety Commissioner Christian’s 2012 failed proposal to trim an hour off closing time in response to two riots on Caroline Street.
Opponents have argued that the policy shift is bad for business, places the city’s burden countywide and redirects violent partygoers to wreak havoc elsewhere. Supporters say it would curb the alcohol-fueled acts of violence on Caroline Street early in the morning.
The Nov. 20 gunfight occurred around 3 a.m. Both alleged shooters, Rutland County (Vt.) Sheriff’s deputy Vito Caselnova IV and a still-unidentified Utica man reportedly came from “one of the Caroline Street bars” before trading bullets on Broadway, Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino reported last week.
Even though legislation has been drafted, Kim isn’t relying on the Board of Supervisor’s approval.
“We are going to propose a way to get it done even if the county doesn’t act,” said the Democratic mayor. “So yes, if the county acts, great. They’ve acted responsibly, but they haven’t done it in the past, so I can’t wait for that.”
Should the longshot request fail to bear fruit, Kim seeks to pursue internal and state legislative routes to change the system. City Hall’s approach, Kim said, will incorporate never-before-attempted “creative lawyering” strategies.
When asked to specify new methods, Kim declined to comment.
“We hope to get something in place very quickly,” said Kim. “We hope to get something in place within the next week or so, but we just don’t know if all the elements will be there.”
New York State Liquor Authority spokesperson William Crowley previously told the Daily Gazette that any city-specific action can only be undertaken by amending state law to give municipalities direct discretion to request new hours via regulators.
Saratoga County last year passed a resolution in support of the like.
“It was done as part of the County’s Legislative Agenda and presents the most fair option for all municipalities across the County,” Saratoga County spokesperson Christine Rush said in a statement.
Municipalities in New York had full autonomy over setting bar closing hours for much of the 20th century. In 1995, the power shifted to state administrative divisions an effort to ease enforcement challenges for local sheriff agencies.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, in an interview last week, described the mid-1990s legislation as ambiguous. If neither entity can find a pathway to amend municipal hours internally, Woerner said that she would consider stepping in.
“I’m certainly more than willing to work with the city and the county to find a solution and I’m looking for the city and the county to come up with the direction they want to pursue,” said Woerner. “Certainly, if the state needs to be involved in helping that, I’m more than happy to put my oar in the water and make sure that we do our part.”
Saratoga Springs is also represented by state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville.
“I’ve been discussing this with the Chairman and members of the Board of Saratoga County Supervisors and am waiting to hear back from them on how best to proceed on the city, county and state levels,” Tedisco said in a statement.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil