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Last Call to fight the 2am Bar Closing regulation

We’re approximately one week away from learning the fate of bar closing times in Buffalo. There is a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, February 2 at 5:30pm on the 4th floor old County Hall (92 Franklin Street). The official vote will then be held on Thursday, February 4 (around 2pm). This vote has me worried. I have heard that decision makers are pretty split on the 4am ruling, but there are a couple of wishy-washy decision makers who could cave to the pressure and simply go along with those who are raising the most stink for 2am.

It’s unfortunate too. It’s unfortunate that we’re not talking about the real issues. Such as ‘why there is no Uber in Buffalo’. Honestly, Uber would help to alleviate the drinking and driving issues that we as a city face, whether it’s at 10pm, midnight, 2am or 4am. But instead of fighting for safe, speedy, reliable transportation options, we’re simply going to change the hours of operation. It doesn’t make sense.

Recently, Legislator Joseph Lorigo noted that Erie County ranked 48th of 62 counties in NYS for DWI related fatalities, and ranks in bottom third of those counties for alcohol-related traffic accidents. Opponents to the 2am closing time have been wondering what sort of statistics have been warranting this issue to even come to light at this time?

When Buffalo is finally turning the corner, there are a lot of issues that we should be dealing with, and to me, this is not one of them. Buffalo is a city that is known for working hard and playing hard. Think of the musicians that rely on the later hours. Think of the distilleries and the breweries that are selling between those hours. Think of the restaurant industry that counts on those additional hours (if they choose to). Websites like TripAdvisor tout Buffalo for its 4am closing, giving the city a one up on many other cities that must shut down two hours earlier.

It is said that years earlier, bar hours were changed from 3am to 4am so that law enforcement could keep bette tabs on the after hour clubs. The 4am change was initiated as a tactic of control, not leniency.

Erie County Legislators who will be making the final decision are: Barbara Miller-Williams, Betty Jean Grant, Peter J. Savage III,  Kevin R. Hardwick, Thomas A. Loughran*, Edward A. Rath III, Patrick B. Burke, Ted B. Morton, Lynne M. Dixon, Joseph C. Lorigo, and John J. Mills.

Thomas A. Loughran may have to abstain from voting because he owns a bar!

You can copy and paste all of their emails, and send them a note that you are in support of keeping Buffalo in business. , , , , , Patrick.Burke@Erie.Gov , , , ,

Also, consider signing this petition to keep the bars open until 4am.

The casinos will not have to abide by the new change in hours. A 2am closing would also likely mean that ousted bar patrons will hit the corner markets in search of beer, to take home to continue the party. That’s what I would have done back in the day. That means that there is undoubtedly going to be an increase in early morning ‘house calls’ by the police.

“I’m not for the change, that’s for sure. Buffalo doesn’t even wake up till 11pm. Now they want to take potentially more than 700 man work hours away from us? For what reason? Because they can?” – Rick Platt (Mohawk Place)

“The bars that stay open till 4 am service the other restaurants that close at 1 to 2 o’clock in the morning. The workers are just getting off shifts and need somewhere to go after work. All the same problems are still going to happen, but they’re all going to happen at 2 am instead of feathering it out. Also the revenue created between 2 am and 4 am helps keep payroll percentages down which in turn helps to keep people in their jobs that work in the kitchen – especially with the new raises that went into effect recently. I am lucky if we break even in the kitchen. It’s the late night drinking that pays the salaries and at least out of 25 employees, 6 – 10 people will lose their jobs at the Essex Street Pub. Has anybody talk to the owners of Jim’s Steakout or any other food places that stay open till 5 am? Because now they’re going to take 3 hours off their weekly ring (each night, week after week). So what will that add up to in lost taxes for the State? It’s not right that we will have to close the bar at 2am, but all the local stores can sell beer until 3am?” – Macky Moberly (Essex Pub)


According to Erie County DWI Data, a review of available studies shows the following:

  • Closing earlier has no effect on Alcohol related motor vehicle crashes or fatalities. This is supported by local data in Erie County.
  • Closing earlier will not reduce the number of DWI arrests but may shift the time of those arrests to an earlier hour.
  • One study showed an increase in DWI’s among younger drinkers after closing hours were made earlier. This is known as “drinking to beat the clock” effect and is a phenomenon among younger consumers. Last minute consumption may also increase the BAC exiting drivers.
  • Closing times can have an effect of DWIs, DWI crashes, and average BAC but it would require significantly greater restriction than the two hour reduction being considered. For example closing entire days, i.e. no sales on Sunday or Saturday, or closing at 11:00pm instead of 4:00am may have an effect.   But no one is suggesting this.

One cannot promise fewer DWIs and crashes by closing earlier. Experience and data don’t support it. Other factors such as disregard for well-known BAC limits, failure to plan ahead for a ride home after drinking, irresponsible service to intoxicated patrons, and patron decisions to drink too much in the first place, are more influential than closing hours.

Quality of life issues, such as public drunkenness, noise, and other forms of injuries are another question. Conclusions from studies about DWI arrests indicate that closing earlier will migrate, not mitigate, these problems.  Without comprehensive measures, they will still occur, but earlier.

As with any regulatory response, promulgation of rules alone will be irrelevant unless accompanied by additional enforcement and education efforts. Studies acknowledge that where reduction in negative events occurred, results were mediated by enforcement action and education.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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