District 10 Legislator

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Kevin Hardwick - District 10

Decent arguments delivered during early bar closing deliberation

Last month's murder of four in Downtown Buffalo has people throughout Erie County wondering what we can do to prevent such tragedies.

Some have suggested that the closing time for bars should be rolled back. The chair of the Erie County Legislature, Barbara Miller-Williams, wants the entire body to address this issue. With this in mind, I have begun the process of collecting data from a variety of sources so as to be able to make an informed decision. I would like to share with you some of my initial thoughts.

It seems to me that the best argument for closing the bars earlier is that, in the words of numerous people with whom I have spoken, “nothing good ever happens after two in the morning.”

I can certainly see the logic in this. Other than the birth of my first son, I cannot think of many great things that have happened after 2 a.m.

Another reason that is given for closing earlier is that bar patrons from surrounding counties flock to Erie County after their establishments close.

I am particularly sensitive to this argument, as I represent the border communities of Tonawanda and Grand Island. Another advantage cited by some is that the police could better concentrate their resources if bars closed earlier.

On the flip side, I am always wary of unintended consequences of public policy. In my political science classes at Canisius College, I often compare making policy to my plumbing. Whenever I fix a leak, I inevitably create three or four new ones in the process. Public policy can be like that also. Too often, we solve one problem and create new ones in its place. We need to make certain that the solution is not worse than the original problem.

A number of people have already catalogued several possible unintended consequences of closing earlier. Many have noted that this would not solve the problem of the people who are causing the disturbance in Downtown Buffalo. It would only force them to go out earlier. This would place them in the proximity of even more innocent people and things could get even uglier. Similarly, some suggest that there would be more driving while intoxicated deaths, as the worst offenders would have more “targets” on the road at the earlier closing time. An economic argument has also been forwarded, as some wonder about the employees of the bars. How will working fewer hours affect them? These are all good questions, and that is why this decision is not as easy as it might first appear.

As I continue to wrestle with the issue I would welcome your thoughts. You can e-mail me at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov or call my office at 858-8672.

- Printed Sept. 8, 2010 in the Ken-Ton Bee Newspaper

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