— “Breakdown” (A Long Way From Home)
by Kris Kristofferson
It’s a quiet time of night, that period between 2 and 4 a.m., when not much good comes of hanging around a bar. At least that’s the view of a number of municipalities in New York State where moves are afoot to get proprietors to pile up the chairs, sweep the floors and lock up for the night by 2 a.m. voluntarily or otherwise rather than use the two hours state law allows them after that time.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, for example, is taking the conciliatory route. He has met with a number of tavern owners recently and asked them to voluntarily curtail their hours. The city councils in Saratoga Springs and Buffalo are discussing making it the law that bars in their municipalities must close up shop by 2 a.m. as already is the case in such places as Rochester and Syracuse, both big college towns. In little Ithaca, home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College, local statute requires a 1 a.m. closing.
The common theme is that the 2 to 4 a.m. period is the one in which there are more alcohol-fueled fights, noise disturbances and serious crimes than any other.
Curiously, the idea of earlier closings in countries with a strong pub culture seems to be gaining traction, just as the anti-smoking movement did some years back and which now has spread to virtually the entire western world. In the United Kingdom, for example, “Up to half the pubs and bars could abandon late-night opening under plans to impose new charges to help police alcohol-fueled disorder, the Home Office has predicted.”
That’s the lead on a report in today’s editions of The Telegraph of London. It goes on to say:
Tens of thousands of venues could stop opening past midnight to avoid paying a so-called late night levy of up to £4,500 (about US$7,000) which councils will have the power to impose. It is part of a series of changes that will transform the licensing regime and spell the end to (the) Labour (Party)’s 24-hour drinking laws, five years after they were implemented.
Other measures contained in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, published today, will see (city) councils allowed to stop problem pubs and clubs in entire areas from opening all hours.
The public will be also be handed a much stronger say in opening times including the power for any local resident to object rather than just those living close to a premises. Health bodies will be consulted, there are greater powers to close permanently those shops or bars that serve children repeatedly, and fines for selling alcohol to those who are under age will also be doubled to £20,000 (about US$32,000).
The levy is aimed at allowing councils to make problem pubs and clubs contribute towards the cost of policing the resulting disorder. But the proposals provide for a general power meaning there is nothing to stop a local authority charging it for every venue that wants to stay open past midnight.
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