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Nick Planty, owner of Wiseguys Sports Bar and Grill, speaks to the Lake Placid village Board of Trustees Monday about an Essex County proposal to change the closing time for bars from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. Planty, as well as Zig Zags Pub owner Dave Sheffield, who is seated wearing the plaid shirt, oppose the change. Photo: Chris Morris, courtesy <em>Adirondack Daily Enterprise</em>
Nick Planty, owner of Wiseguys Sports Bar and Grill, speaks to the Lake Placid village Board of Trustees Monday about an Essex County proposal to change the closing time for bars from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. Planty, as well as Zig Zags Pub owner Dave Sheffield, who is seated wearing the plaid shirt, oppose the change. Photo: Chris Morris, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Essex County mulls earlier closing time for bars

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In the coming weeks, the Essex County Board of Supervisors will debate whether to change the countywide closing time for bars from 4 am to 2 am.

The proposal has broad support from law enforcement officials and groups that work to protect children from substance abuse. But the time change itself will only impact a small number of bars, mainly in the resort community of Lake Placid.

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Reported by

Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

The proposal to change Essex County’s closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. was first introduced in March. It has the support of several youth and substance abuse groups, including the Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition.

Speaking at a recent Lake Placid village Board of Trustees meeting, Mary Dietrich of CYC said the late closing time encourages alcohol use among the community’s youth.

“I’m not standing here as an advocate for prohibition; I want to make that clear,” she said. “I am concerned, though, about policies that tend to lead to excessive alcohol consumption. I believe this is one of those that does just that. These policies that lead to excessive alcohol consumption do have an impact on our youth, even though they are underage. It does have an impact. It sets a tone. They see adults drinking excessively, and they feel that that’s a justification and makes it OK for them.”

In New York state, counties get to decide when bars can stay open until. Franklin and Clinton county bars close at 3 and 2 a.m., respectively. Warren and Washington counties have a 4 a.m. closing time. Bars in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties close at 2 a.m.

Mac MacDevitt is a community-based prevention coordinator for the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County. He said changing bar hours is a tough sell.

“But the reality is that over-consumption of alcohol has a big impact, and it has a public safety impact in terms of violence, (driving while intoxicated arrests), crashes, as well as the public health impact,” he said. 

A recent study by the Marin Institute shows that later “last calls” lead to more alcohol-related problems.

Essex County law enforcement officials are backing the proposal. Sheriff Richard Cutting said very few bars stay open past 2 a.m. anyway.

“There was a few that objected because they don’t want to be locked in (to the time change),” Cutting said. “They would like to be able to stay open until 4 even though they don’t. My thought is we should have some uniformity here. ... If we stay at 4, and bars are open until 4, are we not encouraging people to come here when their own bars close, and drive here in an intoxicated manner?”

The change would mostly impact three Lake Placid bars that currently close at 3 a.m.

Bill Moore is chief of Lake Placid’s police department.

“I think that it will cut down on some of the crime that we have late at night,” he said. “Some of the busier weekends, it’ll make a huge difference in the policing here. I think people, instead of going out at 11 o’clock, I think they’ll just start going out at 9 o’clock. That will be easier for our people to police it. There’s still going to be problems, quite obviously, but I think they’re going to be a little less.” 

But the Lake Placid bar owners disagree.

Nick Planty owns Wiseguys Sports Bar and Grill. He said the change would impact him financially and would unfairly limit how many hours his staff can work.

“It’s taking away an hour of our time to do business,” Planty said. “We are a tourist destination, internationally and through the states and people in surrounding areas. We do a lot of revenue between 2 and 3 o’clock.”

Planty said taking an hour a day away over the course of the week essentially takes away one whole shift from his employees. He said he could lose about $60,000 in revenue over the course of a year because of the change.

Dave Sheffield owns Zig Zags Pub. He said many of the customers he gets after midnight are from Lake Placid’s service industry. He said waiters and waitresses finish work late at night, go home to shower and change, and then go to the bar for a drink.

“They aren’t binge drinking,” Sheffield said. “They only have two hours to wind down after work with a couple of cocktails. That doesn’t have anything to do with binge drinking. If you cut those hours down, now these people are going to have to start binge drinking because they don’t have as much time to relax. They’re going to start drinking more alcohol in a shorter period of time. It only promotes binge drinking; it doesn’t take away the problem.”

The bar owners also say they feel blindsided by the proposal. Planty and Sheffield said this is the first time they’ve heard that staying open late is a problem. 

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said the debate about the closing time speaks to a larger issue for Lake Placid.

“The fact of the matter is: We grew up here, and we have a double standard in Lake Placid,” he said. “We try to bring our children up to be healthy and have good habits, which doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink when it’s appropriate. But by the same token, they look out the window and they see an audience which is here to party and have a great time.”

No decision has been made on the closing time proposal. A previous resolution was tabled, and county lawmakers expect to take up the debate again next week.

Chris Morris' reporting is courtesy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. For more of his work, go to AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com.

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