What’s an hour or two?

A proposal to change the bar closing time in Essex County from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. would not do much to solve the problem of alcohol abuse and would significantly hurt a few Lake Placid businesses.

The three bars that would be affected – Wiseguys, Roomers and Zig Zags – all close at 3 a.m., an hour before the law says they can. That in itself demonstrates they have taken a responsible step.

One of the groups behind moving this legislation is the Lake Placid and Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition (CYC), which has done some great work with initiatives such as the “I Matter” poster campaign and YC Magazine. Although one of its missions involves raising awareness of the problems of alcohol abuse, it is overstepping its bounds by taking on this fight. A CYC board member has said a 4 a.m. closing time encourages alcohol use among the community’s youth. Really? Most teens are in bed during the aforementioned early-morning hours. There are other things CYC can spend its resources on that would have a direct impact on helping our area’s children.

Yes, alcohol abuse and drunk driving is a societal problem – but moving closing time up to 2 a.m. won’t solve that. If a law change is going to cost Lake Placid business owners tens of thousands of dollars a year, it had better do more for the common good than this.

Drinking responsibly primarily involves moral decisions by individuals. This law unfairly places the onus on bar owners – and their staffs, who would also pay a price. And for what?

It doesn’t seem like it would save lives. If someone has documented a link between a significant number of local deaths and bars serving patrons between 2 and 4 a.m., we haven’t heard about it.

We can’t see how it would do much to cut down on bad behavior, either. The prediction that it would reduce noise complaints and alcohol-related arrests seems like wishful thinking. It seems more likely that the only thing it would change is the hours police respond. Instead of the last arrests coming at 3 or 3:30 a.m., they would be at 2 or 2:30. Granted, there’s some good in that, if you happen to be trying to sleep during those hours.

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 and tips. In an economy in which every penny counts, that loss would certainly hurt those relatively low-wage workers.

Let’s remember that Lake Placid’s bread and butter is tourism. People come here on vacation and want to have a good time. Night life – “apres-ski” in wintertime – is a competitive selling point among resort towns. For many adults, the pub scene of Zig Zags or the dance scene at Roomers is a major plus in the Lake Placid experience. Certainly there are a few bad apples who get out of control and prompt police involvement, but that rings true for almost any hopping vacation destination.

Speaking of night life, that is something most of the town supervisors who will vote for the law change lack in their own towns. Not to be critical, but the law change wouldn’t really affect them. To them, we ask, if your town had a business full of 50 to 100 paying customers at 2 a.m., would you vote to make them close early?

It’s not only about alcohol sales. One of the affected establishments 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, and having a place to buy a late dinner is an important service.

So here’s an idea for compromise: Meet right in the middle and make closing time 3 a.m. Business owners in Lake Placid won’t lose revenue since they already close at 3. It would also be consistent with the 3 a.m. closing time in neighboring Franklin County. No one really loses. The organizations that initiated this move would have a feather in their caps and could move forward to fight alcohol abuse in ways that have a clear impact.

That seems like the most sensible and responsible way to handle this.