The movement to make Erie County's bars close sooner took a step forward Wednesday when a county lawmaker introduced legislation asking the State Liquor Authority to change the current 4 a.m. closing time to 2 a.m. Bar owners are offering differing opinions about the proposed new closing time.
Legislator Ted Morton announced the proposed resolution on Chippewa Street Wednesday, in the heart of one of Buffalo's popular bar districts. If passed, the Authority would study the issue and Morton added that it would possibly involve public hearings.
Two downtown Buffalo bar owners offered mixed opinions about the proposed change. Jay Manno, who owns the Soho Bar on Chippewa at Franklin, is interested in discussing a compromise that would see 2 a.m. closings except for Fridays and Saturdays, when bars could stay open until 3 a.m. He's not opposed to the earlier closings, acknowledging concerns for public safety and for improving quality of life in a city that is undergoing an economic redevelopment that involves residents moving downtown.
"We deal with a lot down here with the influx of residents, which we're all happy about," Manno said. "We're just trying to be good neighbors with the rest of the residents down here and hopefully help our quality of life."
Other bar owners are not aboard with the change. Mark Croce, who owns several local establishments, calls the proposal a government intrusion into small business. He also disputes claims by Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, who has championed the cause of earlier closing times since the summer, that an earlier shutdown each night would curb drunk driving incidents and improve overall public safety.
"Quite to the contrary, I found out that people in other area that close at two o'clock in the morning, when everybody is pushed into the street at the same time, there's a lot more load on the police and having to deal with the traffic of everybody coming out at the same time."
Croce also suggested that the Seneca-owned casino not far from the Chippewa District could suddenly gain an unfair advantage, being a sovereign territory that would not be held to the same closing time.
"They'll put a night club in like they did in Niagara Falls, and then they're going to suck all the economy out of this district, and there's going to be nothing left."