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Foss: Earlier last call might make sense

Foss: Earlier last call might make sense

Late-night drinking in bars brings police calls and DWI stops and reports of fights and disorderly behavior
Foss: Earlier last call might make sense
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER FILE

I used to roll my eyes when finger-wagging adults proclaimed that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. 

Now I'm more likely to find myself nodding along in agreement.

I've always enjoyed drinking with friends in bars, and have many fond memories of late-night gatherings in watering holes that catered to people intent on staying out past a reasonable hour. 

But as I've gotten older, I've become increasingly aware of the link between alcohol and crime, of the harm caused by drunk drivers and the violent fights and shootings perpetrated by people who have had too much to drink. 

Would forcing bars to close earlier tamp down on the problems associated with excessive drinking? 

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy thinks so. 

Last week McCoy said he'd like to see bars and restaurants throughout the county close by 2 a.m. Right now, Albany County bars are permitted to stay open until 4 a.m., although many of them shut down earlier than that. 

It's an idea that's been floated in other communities, such as Saratoga Springs, but has always met with fierce resistance from business owners who believe an earlier last call will hurt their bottom lines. 

They might be right, but it's worth weighing the cost of all the late-night nonsense that goes along with late-night drinking in bars — the police calls and DWI stops and reports of fights and disorderly behavior. 

When you consider all the headaches caused by allowing bars to stay open into the wee hours of the morning, an earlier closing time starts to make a lot more sense. 

I'd even go so far as to suggest that it's something every Capital Region county should take a look at. 

The research on earlier closing times is mixed, but some studies suggest that requiring bars to shut down just an hour or two earlier can make a big difference. 

One study found that an Australian city that moved its closing time from 5 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. saw a 33 percent drop in assaults. Another study found that a Brazilian city that cut alcohol sales off at 11 p.m. experienced a 29 percent drop in the murder rate. 

"Generally, studies exploring the impact of reduced alcohol sales hours have found these to be associated with reduced violence, including homicide," a policy paper from the World Health Organization states. "Conversely, extended alcohol service hours have been associated with increased violence, yet in some settings have shown few effects." 

I'd be interested in seeing more research on bar closing times. 

In the meantime, I'll just keep reading the paper and making note of the link between late hours, drinking and dumb, often dangerous, behavior. 

I won't say that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. 

I've had some great times with friends that kept me up much later than that. 

But I can't ignore all the bad things that occur during those late-night hours. 

Closing bars down a little earlier won't solve all the problems associated with alcohol. 

But it might make enough of a difference to be worth a try. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.    

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