Alcohol and Cigarettes

Dear Donn Esmonde,

I don’t mean to be blunt, but please stop being a fucking idiot!

Okay, maybe I do mean to be blunt.  Here’s the deal.  August 14th or 15th, there was this major shooting in Buffalo (where I live) at the City GrillSome guy having his wedding anniversary was shot and killed, along with 3 other patrons and 4 others were wounded.  Yes, this is bad.  This is one of the worst acts that has happened in Buffalo, period.

But, of course, because it happened downtown (our (well one of our) bar district,) people are all up in arms.  As is the custom, we need something to blame this on.  So why not turn to the late partying times that Buffalo has.

Here’s a lowdown on the liquor rules in B-lo.  1) Alcohol starts serving at 8am, everyday.  2) You can buy beer not just in convenience and liquor/beverage stores but also in grocery stores.  3) Liquor stores are open until around 11 most nights (they still close early on Sundays.)  4)  You can purchase alcohol in any store open until 3am, everyday.  5) Our bars do not close until typically 4am, when the law forces them to.

How do I know all this?  I work in a gas station/convenience store.  I have to know all this.

This, coupled with the usual violence that happens on Chippewa (the main club street) every weekend has made some legislators and bar owners and the like go “we need to close the bars earlier!”

Let me outline why this is a bad decision.  And I’m gonna follow Donn Esmonde’s post on this.  Now normally, I like this man.  He is a smart individual.  Usually.

First of all, realize something about Buffalo.  It is not populated with happy-go-lucky young/middle-aged career yuppies who want to go out for drinks and be home in time for bed.  Buffalo does not have enough jobs in this city for them to do that and they don’t pay that well.

What it does have is a shit-ton of college students.  We have Buff State, UB, Canisius, Daemen, Bryant & Stratton, ECC, ITT…Yeah it’s a lot. Half the colleges dorm.  So LOTS of college kids.  All a bus ride away from downtown.  They will not “go out for happy hour and be home by midnight.”  Those who want to do that already do.   I lived with a woman who did that.  These kids will simply go out earlier and party later.  They just won’t be downtown doing it.

First problem becomes that, if the bars close at 2, what happens to the store closing times?  If it stays untouched at 3, I have those “half-blotto” kids and adults driving from downtown, up to where they know a store will be open.  It’s not like they’re rare.

There’s a 24 hr liquor store in Allentown, which is a five minute walk from downtown.  There’s the We Never Close on the Elmwood strip (which is a bar street a lot like downtown’s Chippewa.)  There’s my store on Delaware, and there’s another one like mine on Hertel, which is trying to be a big bar street. That’s four right there within easy distance from the bars.

Under the law we’re not allowed to sell alcohol to anyone who appears to be intoxicated.  But the “signs” they give you to look for don’t appear as often as you think.  For instance, a lot of people come in smelling like beer (or booze in general.)  But they walk straight, their eyes aren’t bloodshot, they don’t slur their words, they can count their money and not screw up their order (mostly.)  So unless I get to breathalize everyone who buys beer at my store, this ain’t gonna work the way you want it to.

All the bad shit gets moved to an earlier time.  People drink more because they’re packing in drinks to be smashed by closing time.  So instead of the fights and loitering and robberies and the like happening at 3-4, it happens at 1-2.

This doesn’t solve the problem of the house parties that the college kids throw too.  Those parties that can and will last til 5 am because that’s when Jim’s Steakout closes.  So people will leave the bars and go there instead.  Which means that while the cops are no longer keeping watch on downtown, they now have to run around from party to party shutting them down.  House parties are ripe with underage drinking too.  While the bars downtown can keep a pretty good eye on whose misbehaving in that respect, the house parties don’t care.  Instead of big, tough guys acting as security to keep shit under control, you have kids who don’t care what happens one way or another.

It’s not going to help get older people out either.  In fact, they’re much more likely to stop coming out because the kids are out earlier.  All those people who want to go out and party til like 11 or 12, knowing that the kids won’t be out until about 12, will now stay in.  Because all those kids will come out just as early.

Closing the bars earlier doesn’t do squat for the behavior.  You underestimate how drunk people can get when they really want to.  It doesn’t necessarily take a length of time.  It’s not “more sane” or “more civil.”  All it does is encourage kids to drink more before the bars close.

And Buffalo’s Bar Crawl doesn’t help the shit either.  It’s supposed to help raise money for the Entertainment District.  For $10, you get a mug and a goal:  Hit all 20 or so participating bars and drink.  At the end you get a t-shirt and they get money to fund some of their projects.

Because this doesn’t encourage bad drinking practices.  No, not at all.

Here’s the real problem.  The shooting downtown wasn’t random.  The more evidence comes out, the more we see that this was deliberate.  These people were targeted.  This was a gang crime.

Gang crimes are everywhere.  They are in every city, regardless of where in America that city is.  They are coming into the suburbs too.  No place is safe and let’s face it, the world isn’t safe to begin with.  Bad shit can and does happen to good people regardless of who you are and where you live.  Because that’s how life works.  It’s supposed to be random like that.

With the known criminal pasts of the victims, it’s easy to see how, even if you’ve reformed, the actions of your past have consequences and not always good ones.  Honestly, bar closing times are going to have the least effect on this, on gang crime.

They will always be there.  If the bars close earlier, they’ll be out earlier, causing mischief.  Gang members are still going to go out and drink.  And they’re still going to rob and rape people.  They’re still going to shoot each other up, and it doesn’t matter whether the bars close at 4 or 2.  Bar closings do not solve this problem.  In fact, it doesn’t even really affect it much.

When the bars close earlier and we’re still hearing about all the problems with robberies and rapes downtown and people go “why?” everyone who doesn’t have their heads up their asses will know why.

Switching gears a little, there is one other subject I’d like to talk about on here.  That is the cigarette tax in NYS.

Okay, not just the tax itself, though let’s face it, a $4.75 tax on one pack of smokes is way too damn high.  No, what I want to rant about is the fact that our Governor is trying to fix the gaps in our budget by collecting that tax from the Native Americans.

Now, I believe that because the Native Americans have sovereign rights to their lands (which means that, in all actuality, it is a separate land from NYS with it’s own laws) they get to decide whether or not they want to pay the taxes to the state.  To force them to pretty much breaks one of your treaties with them and makes history repeat itself.

For those that don’t know, the last time they tried this, the Seneca nation in Buffalo shut down the parts of the Thruway that run through their lands and there was rioting and fires.  There is a distinct possibility that more violence will result with them trying to do this.  And yet he’s still going to do it.

When I read this article, I knew I was going to have to put my two cents in on the subject.  My favorite part was when he said he was going to do it even if “violence and death” resulted.  Forgive my crudeness but are you fucking serious?! Death is not going to stop you.  Is a stupid tax really that worth it?

The Senecas have tried to halt it with court battle but they keep losing.

Here’s what can and will happen, because the Native Americans (and the Seneca’s in particular) do have ways to take action.  The Senecas are known for not playing nicely or fairly either.

1) They can stop selling most major brands of cigarettes.  Here’s the deal.  The state can only tax those nationally recognized brands of cigarettes.  Anything made on the reservation itself, and thereby sold at whatever price they want to sell them at, can’t have tax collected on it.  There are enough people looking for cheap smokes that it won’t matter what they smoke, just that they can.  Therefore, you can’t collect a tax on something they don’t sell.

2) They can withhold casino payments.  This is a big one for the Senecas.  Despite the legal reasons why they are withholding the payment, anyone following this knows that it’s to get back at them for the cigarette tax things.  The Seneca-Niagara Casino easily pulls in more money than the other ones combined.  It is THE casino that people talk about going to.  You want to know a quick way NYS can lose money, that right there is a prime example.

3) The last one is probably the biggest threat.  There is a good chunk of the NYS Thruway that passes through the Native American lands.  All they would need to do is start charging the fees for using it that they wanted to in the first place.  That road leads everywhere.  It’s the way to get to Pennsylvania or Ohio if you live anywhere north of Binghamton, NY.  You need to go somewhere far, you’re getting on the Thruway.  It will easily make them 3x as much money as the tax is making the state, and it will make for some very angry voters and taxpayers come election time.

I know Paterson isn’t running again, but whoever is in after him will have some very angry people and a huge mess to clean up if they decide to go that route.

I’m out.

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~ by ladyruby07 on August 31, 2010.

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