Supervisors Gaston and Veitch Won’t Advocate Closing Bars At 2:00 AM; Candidates Safford and Wiggins Will

This year the City Council voted unanimously to change the closing time for downtown bars from 4:00 AM to 2:00 AM.

Currently the county government is responsible for the closing time of bars subject to the approval by the New York State Liquor Authority.

At this year’s League of Women Voters of Saratoga County(LWVSC) forum the candidates for County Supervisor were asked if they supported closing the bars early as advocated by the City Council.

In his remarks, Republican candidate John Safford noted that he had knocked on 500 doors in his campaigning and the overwhelming numbers support closing the bars earlier. This matches my own anecdotal experience.

I found it stunning that Supervisor Matthew Veitch answered the question by saying unequivocally that he supports keeping the bars open until 4:00 AM.

Supervisor Tara Gaston gave a rambling response that I will take as a no to supporting the closure, but I leave it to the readers of this blog to determine where she stands based on her remarks (see video below).

John Safford’s position is that a Supervisor should represent the City Council at the county and he would advocate for closing.

Shaun Wiggins was crystal clear. He supports closing the bars at 2:00 AM.

9 thoughts on “Supervisors Gaston and Veitch Won’t Advocate Closing Bars At 2:00 AM; Candidates Safford and Wiggins Will”

  1. This debate had been going since I started going to bars in Saratoga in the 1980’s! It’s my opinion that if the bars close at 2am, then people will simply start earlier, and you’ll have the same problem.

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  2. I am sure that readers of John’s blog are tired of hearing my opinions but recent topics have been closely associated with my years in office. This topic is one with which I am especially familiar.

    I first became interested in the late night problems in our City when I became aware of an increased number of patients coming to my office with orofacial traumatic injuries. Altercations in our nightclub district seemed to be the common denominator. There also had been terrible tragedies and multiple arrests in the news. When I decided to run for office in 2011, I began waking at 3AM on weekends to go down to Caroline Street to watch what was happening. What I saw was unbelievable; crowds of heavily intoxicated individuals behaving badly and leaving a trail of vomit, urine and trash.

    On countless occasions in my late teens and early twenties, I enjoyed the downtown nightlife. But, in those days, the bars closed well before 4 AM and most of the patrons had gone home long before last call. While in college in Boston or dental school in New Jersey, no bars were open until 4 AM. I began investigating and found that the majority of counties in New York State had a last call for alcohol at1 AM or 2 AM or 3 AM. Bars in most states could not stay open until 4 AM and most closed much earlier. In fact, most bars in Saratoga Springs closed earlier than 4 AM with the exception of those in the Caroline Street area. In the summer of 2011, there was a riot at a club on Caroline street fueled by out-of-control alcoholic behavior which required assistance from state police, sheriff deputies and the Ballston Spa police. It became more and more obvious to me that the late night alcohol-fueled misbehavior on Caroline Street needed to be toned down for many reasons including the need to keep our residents, visitors and police officers safe as well as the importance of protecting the reputation of our City as a safe place for social life.

    Once elected to office as Commissioner of Public Safety in 2012, a number of measures were taken to tone down the late night problems on Caroline Street. The State Liquor Authority was supportive of my proposal to change our last call hours to 3 AM. They also explained that any change would have to be county-wide and would require approval of our Board of Supervisors. Former Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen was helpful in our attempt to have the board consider our proposal but we weren’t able to get the full board to vote on the proposal when I presented it to them in the summer of 2012.

    After Saratoga County failed to consider an earlier last call, Warren County did change their last call from 4 AM to 3 AM. The Glens Falls police chief reported a greater than 30% decrease in calls for police during weekend late-night hours. Then Essex County changed their last call from 4 AM to 3 AM. The police chief of Lake Placid was pleased with the result and was hoping to eventually go to 2 AM to be more consistent with neighboring Clinton County. Neither Warren nor Essex Counties would ever go back to a 4 AM last call.

    I fully support efforts to roll back the last call in Saratoga County to an earlier hour. City or county officials who continue to support a 4 AM last call are not acting responsibly.

    Chris Mathiesen

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      1. John, I always enjoy hearing your perspective on various topics and I often agree.

        Chris Mathiesen

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  3. There is a good scene in the move ‘Centurion’ that depict a legion commander (a brigadier general equivalent) in a drunken brawl with his men. Drinking and fighting are part of human culture, and we try to make these things non-lethal and a little bit safer. Caroline street is a learning laboratory, an extension of the educational system, where people learn to cope. Sometimes that results in fighting, sometimes arrest, sometimes injury, and in rare cases, death. Private insurance has the liability covered in this case. Getting arrested for fighting has consequences that usually result in a learning event.

    Swim at your own risk – avoid the area if you do not want to partake. There are different places for different people. We have established a place for the behavior, let us not dictate the times as well.

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  4. There was a time when candidates for local office came to a candidate forum or election eve debate prepared to knowledgeably respond to anticipated questions and give nuance and context to the issues. Apparently no more.

    Certainly the public and the debate moderator would expect incumbents, regardless of their position, to be familiar with the background, history and previous actions taken to address current public policy issues and community problems.

    In the present environment any candidate for city supervisor must have anticipated a discussion of how to address Caroline Street violence, its causes, its impact on public safety and potential strategies to tamp it down.

    Instead the two incumbent supervisors had nothing of substance to say and certainly had no concrete ideas to offer. Said supervisor Gaston in a gush of pious fluff: “We need a real sit down, open and honest discussion” of the issue before suggesting that the violence this summer was somehow an anomaly. There was some vague reference to impacts on other county municipalities if bar were required to close earlier than 4:00 am.

    And does Ms. Gatson’s call for a “…open and honest discussion …” mean that she is unaware that such discussions have taken place many times over the years, certainly as early as the late 1980’s.

    Then she bemoaned the City Council’s initiation of a 2:00 am closing request before “ we (she and supervisor Veitch) got involved.” How their “involvement” would have benefited remained unsaid.

    Supervisor Veitch simply said he has lived here all his life, that he was supportive of a 4:00 am closing time and, besides, his “colleagues” on the Board of Supervisors had no interest in helping the city address the problem.

    Of course neither supervisor gave definition to the “impacts” a 4:00 am closing would have on other communities. In fact, supervisor Veitch didn’t know if watering holes in other municipalities stay open to 4:00.

    Ms. Gaston’s suggestion that this summer’s violence was unusual is simply untrue. Both commissioner Mathiesen and I have long written of the Caroline Street culture, the real problems its attendant excessive alcohol abuse fosters and the injuries, deaths and costs that result.

    To their credit, the other two candidates unequivocally support an earlier closing.

    There was also a time when incumbents knew how to develop an argument to support a policy change. So we ask what is the “impacts” that other supervisors fear from a 4:00 am bar closing? They can only be impacted if the bars in the county’s 19 towns, 9 villages and 1 other city also remain open to 4:00 am. But do they?

    Easy enough to find out. Suggest they start with the NYS Liquor Authority’s interactive map showing every licensed bar in the county. No, closing at an earlier hour would not impact other municipalities as showing their locations and closing times will demonstrate.

    And if our supervisors won’t request the data or cause it to be generated then the city council should simply direct existing staff to do so and place the results on a council meeting agenda. Should be interesting.

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    1. Well said Lew unfortunately this is a problem with no solution the proverbial should I stay or should I go….maybe the street of dreams should list all its positives for public consumption of course!

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