Hearing on bar closing time set as Paladino weighs in

The public will finally get a chance to weigh in on the Erie County bar closing debate next Tuesday (Feb. 2) at 5:30 p. m. at a public hearing in the legislative chambers in Old County Hall, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo.

According to Majority Leader Joe Lorigo (C. – West Seneca), a vote on the resolution to close bars at 2 a. m, two hours earlier than the current 4 a. m. closing time, would follow on Thursday, Feb. 4. Lorigo was unable to get the support to bring the measure, sponsored by Ted Morton (R. – Cheektowaga), to a vote last week and scheduled the public hearing for next Tuesday.

A new voice has now entered the debate, and it belongs to none other than Carl Paladino, the Buffalo School Board member and prominent local developer who has distributed a strongly-worded email message urging support of the earlier closing time.

Paladino said there is no place for politics on the vote for the earlier bar closing proposal, saying it is far more than an ordinary, everyday conflict over policy.

“In Toronto, bars close at 1 AM,” Paladino wrote. “We know it as a clean and wonderful place to visit with a vibrant and thriving bar and restaurant scene. People spend the same number of hours recreating but just go out and come home earlier and get up earlier the next day. They have learned how to make every day count in their lives. Do we think of New York City, New Orleans and Las Vegas the same way?”

Paladino fired a strong salvo at downtown businessman and restaurant owner Mark Croce in his email, describing him as a “greed-driven parasite preying on our community” who therefore is against the earlier closing time for his own interests.

The outspoken Paladino, a former gubernatorial candidate known for his in-your-face style, said the public still doesn’t know where the mayor, county executive, or common council stand on the issue but notes that recent polling shows 69 percent of the community favors the rollback and it also has the support of law enforcement.

“Except for Mark Croce and a few other quick buck in and out business owners, bar owners, responsible bar and restaurant owners will say that after 2 a.m. they deal with loser drunks and drug addicts preying on good young people who have told their parents that all of their friends are out so they must be out,” Paladino wrote.

Paladino also noted the “horrible pain” inflicted on the community by the current opiate drug epidemic, saying at one point “rolling back the bar closing time will not solve the drug problem but will bring awareness and jump start an effort to address the culture that is so destructive to our community.”

The idea to consider an earlier bar closing time was originally put forward by County Clerk Chris Jacobs who is expected to testify next Tuesday at the public hearing. While Morton introduced his proposal to roll back the hours before the election, not much has happened since and at this point, opponents may outnumber supporters when it comes to a vote. But a strong public showing on Tuesday could change the minds of legislators concerned about their own political future. Like it or not, issues like this usually are decided by politics, and if voters demand a change, it could have an impact.

Members of the public who wish to speak at the public hearing are asked to email Karin McCarthy (clerk) at Karen.mccarthy@erie.gov, with speakers limited to three minutes.

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