As lawmakers in Erie County debate whether or not to change the bar closing time from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., one is adding a new wrinkle to the debate by submitting a "Mimosa Resolution."
Legislator Patrick Burke says alcohol sales on Sunday should be handled like any other day of the week.
“We need to stop treating adults like children. One of the key components of our government is maintaining public safety, not determining the private choices of citizens or businesses,” Burke argued.
Currently, no alcohol is allowed to be sold before noon on Sundays. Burke says this hurts places that sell drinks like mimosas or Bloody Marys.
"The Sunday Blue Law is a dated, prohibition era reform that is unnecessary,” said Burke. “When there is no added risk to public safety, we should focus on giving people more choices not taking them away.”
State troopers, the Erie County Sheriff's PBAs, and the Buffalo Place Board, which is made up of local business owners and organizations, support a move to close bars in Erie County at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.
Erie County is the only county in Western New York to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., which law enforcement officials say creates its own dangers.
"The fact that all counties contiguous to Erie County have earlier bar closing times encourages drinkers to drive here once the establishments in the counties they reside in are closed. This is dangerous for residents of both counties as it poses tremendous risks on our roads," said Erie County Sheriff PBA President Jason Weiss.
"They have too much to drink, their judgment is compromised and they just keep going until the 4 a.m. closing,” Trooper Jack Moretti said. “Then they get into their car and a life changing mistake is made."
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs was the first to suggest a change in the bar closing time, saying it would lead to a better overall quality of life for residents and improve business conditions. He also cited drunk driving statistics as a reason behind the push.
He piled onto that by conducting a survey, which showed a majority of people support closing the bars early in Buffalo.
In October, the Buffalo Place Board, which Jacobs is a member of, voted 'yes' to a non-binding resolution to change the last call hours. However, their resolution is a compromise of Jacobs' first proposal to have bars close at 2 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. on weekends.
“As far as violence and other episodes that occur at night there is evidence of that and there is a significant cost of that," Jacobs said.
But developer Mark Croce does not agree. He owns a number of bars and restaurants in the Chippewa District and said the 3 a.m. compromise won’t stick.
“I don't know who to trust right now. I feel like if given an inch they will go a mile and business owners can't afford that right now,” Croce said.
Croce said the change will not only hurt people who want to stay out until 4 a.m. and business owners but also the employees at the restaurants and bars.
“There are a lot of business owners and employees who feel like they are going to be greatly impacted, ruining opportunities and those working toward college and those types of issues,” Croce said.
Jacobs said this change would lead to an overall better quality of life.
“It’s a new Buffalo and downtown and we believe this will allow businesses, residents, hotel stayers to coexists,” Jacobs said.
The board's vote wasn’t unanimous. A representative for County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted 'no' on his behalf, saying that Poloncarz is against the change.
The issue must now head to the county level for a final decision.
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