July 7, 2012
The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Even though a Saratoga County committee this week shot down the Saratoga Springs City Council’s proposal to close county bars an hour earlier, city Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen says he’s not ready to give up on the downtown bar scene.

“I don’t think it’s ever really dead in the water,” he said of the prospect of changing last call. “If we don’t deal with it now, it’s just going to get worse.”

In an effort to address problems caused by revelers in the downtown bar district, Mathiesen has been working to change last call from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. But according to the New York State Liquor Authority, any change to bars’ closing time would have to be implemented countywide.

In a 3-1 vote in June, the City Council forwarded the proposal to the county’s supervisors.

But on Monday, a county Board of Supervisors committee rejected the proposal outright and voted against sending it to the full board.

Mathiesen said he thought the committee would just be discussing the proposal Monday, not voting on it, and that he now intends to go before the full board himself.

“I plan to go to the Board of Supervisors during their public comment period and make sure they understand why we brought this to them and why they should have taken it more seriously,” he said. “I was obviously disappointed that we were not able to present before they took a vote.”

The issue could still be brought to the floor of the Board of Supervisors if a supervisor sponsors it, but neither Saratoga Springs supervisor Matthew Veitch or Joanne Yepsen have said they intend to do so.

Yepsen said she will still present the board with the three years of research collected by Mathiesen and city Accounts Commissioner John Franck, who also unsuccessfully tried to roll back bar closing times in 2010.

“Whether you believe in the issue or not, it wasn’t properly discussed by the Board of Supervisors,” she said, adding that the supervisors should have discussed it “out of respect.”
Despite the lack of legislative support at the county level, Mathiesen said he believes most people in the county would support a change in last call.

“We’re exploring other avenues,” he said.

One of those will be a future meeting with the state Liquor Authority.

“We’re jumping over the county and going to meet with them directly,” said Yepsen, who will also attend the meeting she said will take place sometime this month.

Mathiesen said he hopes to talk to the Liquor Authority about making a change to last call city-specific. The authority just issued a declaratory ruling earlier this year stating the change would have to made countywide.

“I don’t know if it’s possible, but it doesn’t hurt to try,” he said. “It’s here every weekend. It’s worse in the summer months, but it’s here all the time. It’s an atmosphere that can lead to bad things.”