No more late nights?

Lawmakers have yet to backup argument

The recent crackdown on Buffalo nightlife doesn’t seem to show any sign of abating. Three Erie County legislators introduced legislation on Wednesday that would close Buffalo’s bars at 2 a.m. instead of allowing them to stay open until 4 a.m. like they are now.

County Clerk Chris Jacobs has spearheaded the effort, claiming such a move would limit alcohol-related accidents and lower crime and injuries. On the surface, this sounds like a laudable decision with the best interests of the public in mind.

However, the lack of specific evidence to support the legislation is troubling. Jacobs provided no statistics that demonstrated a substantial amount of crime and alcohol-related accidents occur between 2 and 4 a.m. Even if he had, such statistical evidence is hard to prove as causal. Does a person get a DWI because he or she could drink at the bar for two more hours or was the person going to get one regardless of when he or she started drinking that night?

Buffalo’s college-aged population will be significantly affected by this proposal. With the recent closing of area bars like Molly’s, Northside and The U and the increased crackdown of parties in the University Heights, students have limited options in terms of nightlife as it is.

It is not uncommon for groups of college-aged kids to leave for the bar at 1 a.m. and stay for three hours before hailing a cab or stumbling home. Closing the bars earlier means those not finished partying for the evening will move to the sidewalks or back to their Heights’ homes or apartments – potentially causing additional problems for the university.

And there isn’t any proof that people won’t simply drink more and faster if the bars close early. There’s an argument to be made that would be even more drunk driving if the bars close early. The patron who’s had too much to drink at 2 a.m. won’t have two hours to sober up – he or she will be kicked out of the bar and put behind the wheel of a car.

The basic motive behind the proposed legislation carries weight – no one wants to encourage drunk driving or assault. Yet the manner in which the proposed legislation seeks to fix an unspecified problem raises concern.

There is no simple reason for problems such as crime and alcohol-related incidents. To act like a two-hour change will solve all these issues with no evidence supporting such claims seems foolish.

The move would also affect business owners, who’ve grown used to earning revenue from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. Limiting the amount of hours a business is open would hurt any business, let alone one dependent on nightlife.

Also, this can’t be the most pressing issue facing Erie County right now – what about crime or economic development? If there are problems that are serious enough to warrant County legislation, then they should be approached seriously with concrete evidence and statistics, not anecdotal or coincidental information.

If lawmakers would bring forth statistics that show crimes would lower as a result of closing bars earlier, we would be in support of it. But that has not happened yet.