Though closing the more than $2 million budget gap was a pressing issue at recent meetings of Saratoga Springs City Council, the Tuesday, April 20, meeting was abuzz with an even more contentious issue recently brought to light: changing last call hours for city bars.
Commissioner of Finance Ken Ivins postponed the first two items on his agenda that would have amended department budgets and the council devoted nearly an hour to explaining the last call proposal and getting public commentary on the matter.
In an effort to address both cost saving and recent incidents related to late-night alcohol consumption, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck laid out a detailed yet preliminary proposal that would change last call from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. starting after Labor Day weekend. The way it stands now, the change in hours wouldn't apply during the summer months when the city sees high tourist traffic between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Franck said the new proposal, in its infant stages was drawn up to achieve two objectives: safety of city residents and cutting costs.
"First and foremost is city residents' safety. Money is important but in this instance, we've had numerous altercations"fights, the recent tragedy on St. Patrick's Day, potential and partial abductions, I can go on and on"but from an account side, I believe we will substantially cut costs in overtime, worker's comp claims, insurance claims and lawsuits," said Franck.
Franck said he talked to numerous attorneys and has gotten mixed messages; however, from what he can tell, the default last call for New York State is 4 a.m. but local governments are allowed to change the time within a county that liquor can be sold by adopting a local law.
"What I could get from my conversations was, either we can do this as a local law at the city level or we could put a resolution together and send it to the county different things have been said to me and this idea is murky at best," said Franck, who said there are a lot of legal steps to still be taken and he hopes to have a plan drawn up within a few weeks.