Speakers call for earlier last call

ELIZABETHTOWN – Vic Kraus’ hotel patrons are often upset by the noise from people leaving downtown Lake Placid bars at closing time.

“It’s crass,” Kraus said. “People are coming out shouting obscenities, screeching tires, participating in some sort of vandalism.”

Kraus has owned and operated Mountain View Inn on Lake Placid’s Main Street with his wife for about three decades, and he told state Liquor Authority representatives Thursday night that he hopes an earlier closing time would help alleviate his problems.

Two representatives from the Liquor Authority heard only remarks in favor of edging up Essex County bars’ legal last call for alcohol from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday night.

Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen and Secretary Jacqueline Held were in Elizabethtown for the hearing Thursday night to gather input for the authority to make a decision next week.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in May asking for the change. Supervisors originally discussed moving last call to 2 a.m., but concerns from Lake Placid bar and nightclub owners led to the compromise.

Kraus said he has had problems with customers who won’t come back due to the noise from bars closing.

He was one of six people who showed up to the hearing, and all spoke in favor of making the last call earlier. Rosen asked several of them if they would support the 2 a.m. closing time, and all who were asked said they would.

Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow and Schroon Supervisor Mike Marnell, two members of the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, and Ticonderoga police Chief Mark Johns also registered their comments.

Johns said that in his community, the second largest municipality in the county, some of the bars don’t close until 4 a.m. On warm summer nights, that leads to people congregating on sidewalks outside the establishments sometimes for an hour. That means people getting up in the morning for walks, fishing tournaments and to go out to breakfast sometimes will run into the late-night bar crowd, and he said that’s a quality-of-life problem.

Marnell said he used to run a bar in Schroon Lake, and he saw the problems that happened when people stayed too late.

“Believe me, 2 o’clock was late enough,” he said.

Doug Terbeek, executive director of the prevention team, argued that the costs of people drinking too much affect everyone through health care expenses, crime and lost productivity.

“When open-minded people with no special interest from the sale of alcohol see the evidence, they usually understand that reasonable controls on the availability, accessibility and affordability of alcohol are in the public interest,” Terbeek said.

Mac MacDevitt, community-based coordinator for the prevention team, said bars and establishments that serve alcohol are often tucked in close to residences and schools in the area’s communities, so problems at the bars have an impact on people wanting to live and work here.

“The case for rolling back closing hours is clear,” MacDevitt said. “If we limit the hours of alcohol sales, we will reduce binge drinking. If we reduce binge drinking, we will reduce alcohol-fueled problems. If we reduce alcohol-fueled problems, we will improve the quality of life in our small towns.”

After the hearing, Rosen said they would bring the comments back to the Liquor Authority to review and then decide.

“We take this tremendously into account,” Rosen said. “This is a very important proceeding for us, even though it seems kind of informal and just a handful of people. But this, plus the resolution, tells us what people want.”

He said he was curious to see if any of the people against an earlier last call would show up and what their arguments would be.

“It’s very significant to us that they didn’t appear,” he said.

Thursday evenings are often a busy time for bars and restaurants.

The Liquor Authority meeting is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday and is planned to be webcast. Held said the link will be available at the authority’s website, www.sla.ny.gov.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or jcollier@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.