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We’re crossing a line there when you start getting into religious holidays.

Earlier bar closing raises issues of safety, religion

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The Essex County Board of Supervisors has approved a measure that changes last call for bars and nightclubs from 4 am to 3 am.

The resolution moved through two committees in April without much discussion. But at Monday's meeting, Schroon town Supervisor Mike Marnell made a last-ditch effort to reinstall holiday closures for bars on Christmas Eve and Good Friday, which generated a brief debate about whether it's OK for lawmakers to set hours of sale on religious holidays.

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Reported by

Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

The new closing time won’t have a big impact in Essex County, since most bars already close before 3 a.m. But supporters, like the Substance Abuse Prevention Team of Essex County, say the measure could curb alcohol use among the county’s youth.

Schroon Supervisor Mike Marnell tried to amend the resolution to include mandated closures on Good Friday and Christmas Eve, but no one seconded it, and it failed.

In 1974, supervisors decided to limit hours of operations for taverns on those holidays. Those limits were repealed in a 2005 resolution.

Elizabethtown town Supervisor Margaret Bartley said lawmakers shouldn’t pick which holidays bars should be closed: “We’re not picking Easter Sunday, we’re not picking Christmas Day,” she said. “It just seems like we should stay out of that. A religious holiday is personal. I just don’t think we need to go there with that.”

Moriah’s supervisor, Tom Scozzafava, agreed: “You’re walking a thin line there when you start telling bar owners that you’re gonna close on this religious holiday, but you can remain open on another religious holiday that may be someone other’s religion,” Scozzafava said. “We’re crossing a line there when you start getting into religious holidays. We’ve been down that road before with prayer before meetings.”

The earlier closing eventually passed 15-1. The resolution will now be sent to the state Liquor Authority, which will hold a public hearing and then decide whether to allow the change.

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