ELIZABETHTOWN - After weeks of debate, it's almost last call for a measure that aims to move the county-wide closing time for bars and nightclubs from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m.
The Essex County Ways and Means Committee voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a resolution that is largely symbolic, since only a few establishments in the county close at 3 a.m. or later. The resolution has one more hurdle to clear: next Monday's weighted vote of the full Board of Supervisors.
If the Ways and Means Committee vote is any indication, and it generally is, the measure is likely to pass next week. Newcomb town Supervisor George Canon was among only a few lawmakers who voted against it.
"My local establishment - I only have one - is not in favor of this," he said.
Originally, supervisors weighed changing last call from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., a move supported by local organizations including the Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition and the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County. But some bar owners in Lake Placid, a popular resort destination, said losing an hour would hurt their bottom line and adversely affect their employees.
Only three bars in Lake Placid stay open past 2 o'clock in the morning: Wiseguys Sports Bar and Grill, Zig Zags Pub and Roomers Nightclub stay open as late as 3.
There was little discussion of the resolution Monday. Schroon town Supervisor Michael Marnell voted against the measure. He noted that neighboring Warren County's last call is still 4 a.m.
"With Schroon Lake being so close to the Warren County line, I think we should be at the same level," he said.
Chesterfield town Supervisor Gerald Morrow noted that Clinton and Franklin counties border Essex County, too, and they already have earlier closing times. Clinton's is 2 a.m. while Franklin's is 3 a.m.
"We're compromising for 3 o'clock," Morrow said.
Meanwhile, Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas said he wants the county to lobby the state to ask for more flexibility to keep bars open later for special events.
If the county approves the time change, the state Liquor Authority would host a public hearing and then make the final decision.
The effort to move up last call started with CYC and the Substance Abuse Prevention Team. Youth advocates from both organizations told supervisors that later closing times promote binge drinking, which leads to alcohol-related crimes like drunken driving. Law-enforcement officials like Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting and Lake Placid village police Chief Bill Moore support the change.