Thursday, 22 December 2022 13:37

Last Call 2AM Saratoga Approves Early Bar Closing

Caroline Street at night. Photo by John Seymour. Caroline Street at night. Photo by John Seymour.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Following a lengthy discussion which pushed this week’s City Council meeting close to the midnight hour, officials approved a measure moving forward that directs the city attorney petition the N.Y. State Liquor Authority to prohibit the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m. for any new city establishment seeking to secure a liquor license, or for any currently existing business seeking a license renewal.

Citing public safety reasons as its inspiration to roll back bar closing times from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., the resolution passed by a 3-2 vote. Mayor Ron Kim, and Commissioners Jim Montagnino and Minita Sanghvi voted to approve the measure; Commissioners Jason Golub and Dillon Moran voted against.   

The adopted resolution specifically directs the City Attorney to petition the SLA when “an establishment, individual or entity of any kind seeks a liquor license, seeks renewal of a liquor license, or seeks modification or amendment of a liquor license,” to prohibit the sale of alcohol by that entity beyond 2 a.m. as a condition of the granting of a license. 

“The State Liquor Authority not only has the discretion to issue conditions on the granting of licenses, but (the SLA) is responsive to community requests regarding those conditions,” said Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino, who authored the city measure. 

The city process under the resolution seems clear regarding new businesses seeking licenses for the first time, however, appears a bit murkier when related to existing businesses seeking license renewal.   

“It’s my understanding that new applications are treated somewhat differently than renewals by the SLA – new applications are given more scrutiny,” Montagnino said. On-premises wine and liquor licenses are issued for two years, according to the SLA.

“With regard to the renewals, generally, unless there are problems with the application or the applicant, the renewals are granted. I would note that in the event of a renewal application for premises that have had problems in the past…I think the SLA would take a little harder look and maybe exercise their discretion,” Montagnino said. “In a situation where there were previous problems, the SLA may be more receptive…in the case of a renewal we would review the history of that establishment from the time of its last renewal and may add information in our letter to the SLA for them to use in exercising their discretion.” 

Several attempts made by the current, as well as previous councils to alter bar closing hours have been unsuccessful. One clear path to altering the time of a “last call” requires the approval of the county Board of Supervisors for the change be implemented countywide, and to subsequently forward that request to the State Liquor Authority to ultimately rule on the matter. The city resolution presented this week documents the county’s reluctance to do so, noting: “the County has, to this time, not acceded to the City’s request.” 

The term of license depends on the type of license you have. If you have a retail license to sell only beer for on-premises or off-premises consumption, your license lasts for three years. Off-premises liquor and wine licenses (liquor and wine stores) are also issued for three years. If you have a seasonal license, it must be renewed every year.

In response to an inquiry of general practices, the State Liquor Authority responded via email with the following statement: 

“About our licensing processes: Each and every on premises businesses – including those currently operating in Saratoga – is required at the time of application to provide notice of at least 30 days to the municipality in which it intends to operate.  This allows the municipality time to provide the SLA with any desired input into the business’ operation.  A municipality’s choice not to provide input generally signifies agreement with the business and business model proposed in the municipal notice.  If however the municipality provides input opposing the proposed business or their method of operation, the SLA will place the new business’ application on a Board agenda, so that the positions of the business and the municipality may be heard by the SLA Full Board. 

“The Full Board reviews each application on a case-by-case basis, weighing the merits of the individual application while placing due weight on the recommendations of local law enforcement, municipal officials, and members of the community.” 

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