On the surface, the current proposal to change the bar closing time in Essex County from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. seems like a good idea - but the fact is, it will only hurt some local businesses and not solve to problem of alcohol abuse.
So far it is only a matter of discussion by county, town and village leaders, but if the proposal were to go to vote today, it is likely to become law. So here is some food for thought to those who want to have establishments close earlier.
Although the law is 4 a.m., the three primary bars that will be impacted - Wiseguys, Roomers Night Club and Zig Zags - all close at 3 a.m., an hour before the law says they can close. That in itself demonstrates that these bar owners have taken a responsible step.
One of the groups behind moving this legislation is the Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition - which has done some great work with initiatives such as the I Matter poster campaign and YC Magazine - and although one of its missions involves giving awareness to the problems of alcohol abuse, they are overstepping their bounds by making this their fight. There are other things they can be spending their resources on that will have a direct impact on helping our area's children - most of whom are in bed during the aforementioned early-morning hours. But still, a CYC board member has said that a 4 a.m. closing time encourages alcohol use among the community's youth. Really?
That all said, yes, alcohol abuse and drink and driving is a societal problem. And so is gun control and drug abuse. Changing the time a bar is allowed to close will not eliminate the societal problems posed by alcohol abuse, and these Lake Placid business owners should not lose tens of thousands of dollars annually on a measure that has no teeth in solving a problem.
Not drinking and driving and drinking responsibly are moral decisions that an individual must make - and this law unfairly places the onus on bar owners - and their staffs, who will also pay a price.
Make no mistake, the towns who vote for the change will be making a token gesture by backing this law change, and a vote to change the law just makes it appear that they are doing something to save lives due to alcohol abuse.
There is no proof that alcohol-related fatalities are an issue in Essex County and these Lake Placid business owners should not lose revenue based on the poor moral decisions of those who drink and drive or get into trouble in the early-morning hours.
The Lake Placid Police Department is full of stand-up officers who do a great job protecting life and property in the community. But the argument that the number of noise complaints and alcohol-related arrests will decrease if the hours the bars close is made earlier is simply untrue. The only thing that will change is the hours they respond. Instead of responding at 3 or 3:30 a.m., they will be responding at 2 and 2:30 a.m. and so forth.
It may also inspire locals or visitors to venture to neighboring Saranac Lake where bars must close at 3 a.m.
Let's also not forget that Lake Placid's bread and butter is the tourist industry. People come to Lake Placid on vacation and want to have a good time. For some adults the night life of Zig Zags or the dance scene at Roomers is something they enjoy. Certainly, there are a few bad apples who get out of control and the police need to respond, but that rings true for any resort community that has a night life.
Speaking of night life, that is something most of the town supervisors who will vote for the law change lack in their own townships. Not to be critical of these less populated areas, but the fact is the law change doesn't really impact them. Most of their population is in bed before midnight, and their tourist population are likely to be chiefly outdoor enthusiasts who go to bed early.
But we are not only talking about loss of revenue to alcohol sales. One establishment is the only place in this tourist mecca that serves food during the early-morning hours. There are visitors who roll into town past midnight after driving hours to get to their vacation destination, and having a place to buy food - or a cold beverage - is a vital service our tourist-based destination provides. These businesses are a part of Lake Placid's economy - we must support them, not hurt them.
And what about those who work at these establishments? Sure, it's only one hour a night. But that's six or seven hours a week in lost wages. It's also not just an hourly wage lost, but tips as well. In an economy in which every penny counts, the loss in revenue will certainly hurt those who are trying to make a living.
The genesis of this movement appears to be for the public good - but tens of thousands of dollars will be lost by these three businesses and their employees. And to those Essex County supervisors who are considering voting to change the law - if your township had a business full of 50 to 100 people at 2 a.m., would you still make that vote to force them to close early?
So, here's an idea for a compromise for all the Essex County town supervisors and the law's supporting groups, the Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition and the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, to consider.
Meet right in the middle and instead of changing the law from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., make it the law to have the bars close at 3 a.m. Business owners in Lake Placid won't lose revenue since they already adhere to a 3 a.m. closing time. No one really loses. The organizations that initiated this move would "have a feather in their caps," and then they could move forward and combine forces to fight alcohol abuse in ways that have a clear impact on solving the root of the problem.
Now that's a responsible and morally correct path