Can the city restrict bar hours?

Updated: 07/26/2014 11:34 PM
Created: 07/26/2014 6:52 PM WHEC.com

Should the city be able to restrict bar operating hours? A new court ruling says no.

This ruling comes after two bars on the east end voluntarily shut down due to recent violence. The court ruling states that the City of Rochester cannot force a bar to close earlier than the county’s 2 a.m. cut off time for alcohol sales.

Obsessions Bar and Grille on Chili Avenue sparked the lawsuit after owners claimed the city unfairly restricted its operating hours, and the state agrees. A supreme court ruled that the city cannot dictate a bar’s hours.

Recent violence at two clubs in the east end prompted the city to take action. Magic City voluntarily closed, and Captain’s Attic lost its liquor license.

Violence near Obsessions has some neighbors on edge, but the city’s attempt to curb that violence has been ruled improper by the state.

“They have no right to tell bars what time they have to open and close. It’s state law,” said Joan Ortiz.

Ortiz is the owner of Obsessions Bar and Grill. She says the city of Rochester unfairly restricted her bar’s operating hours, forcing it to close at 11 p.m.

“You can’t be open until 11 p.m. because people don’t go out until like 12:30 a.m. If you’re there all day and make no sales then you can’t operate. You can’t survive,” said Ortiz.

Ortiz sued the city, and now a state Supreme Court has ruled in her favor, stating that the city of Rochester cannot dictate the hours for any bar, even if they have a history of violence. Officials say the law complies with the city’s zoning code, and the restricted hours are to help curb violence.

Some residents say the problem isn’t the area, it’s the people.

“It’s not the building, and it’s not the area, but it is the people. Keeping the bar open a little later would be a problem,” said Janice Jones, concerned resident.

 “We have a lot of security. My owner is on point, and she tries to keep it safe for everybody,” said Bookie, bar employee.

Ortiz says the city needs to crack down on the people committing the acts of violence, not the bars where they happen to go.

“We can go here and we can stab somebody, we can kill somebody, and the city is not going to bother us. They’re going to go after the bar owner, but then we could go over there, and we have a new spot to go,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz’s attorney says city officials have contacted him with plans to appeal the case again.

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