March 9, 2012
The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Spa City bar and club owners met with city police, New York State Liquor Authority representatives and other state and local officials Wednesday to go over the responsibilities of alcohol distributors before the city’s upcoming tourist season.

“By bringing everyone together, we all heard the same message,” Saratoga Springs Police Lt. John Catone said.

Also in attendance were representatives from the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, Saratoga County Prevention Council and state Department Division of Licensing. The meeting was meant to coordinate efforts between police and bar owners heading into the city’s busy summer season.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with bar closing times,” Catone said, emphatically.

The lieutenant was the person responsible for organizing the meeting. He met with state Liquor Authority representatives in January to get the ball rolling on it.

Catone said the meeting was designed to ensure all of the bar and club owners were aware of their responsibilities.

For instance, a state law passed in 1992 mandates that bouncers at local bars are state-certified security guards, a law Catone said is widely ignored or unknown.

“In most cases, I honestly believe they didn’t know,” he said.

While not every bouncer would be licensed by St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, a notoriously busy day downtown, Catone said he hopes most will be licensed by racing season. The facilities that do not comply with those laws can face hefty fines, and individuals in some cases can face criminal charges.

Other topics included Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS), which covers guidelines and laws about serving alcohol and regulations for bartenders.

“Everybody learned something,” Catone said. “We’re trying to build a partnership here instead of us-versus-them.”

Catone said “pretty much every bar on Caroline Street was represented but one.” He would not name the one absent establishment.

Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen, who has advocated for closing bars earlier, said something needs to change on Caroline Street. “What happens late at night downtown is not a safe environment,” he said. “We need to make sure the bar and club owners take responsibility.”

He said that includes the bartenders, who “need to take responsibility for the alcohol they serve,” to ensure already intoxicated individuals are not served more alcohol.

The meeting also comes before what may be an unseasonably warm St. Patrick’s Day. The last St. Patrick’s Day with unusually high temperatures was the scene of the fatal hit-and-run of Ryan Rossley, a topic that was discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.