Jun 26, 2011

Saratoga's drinking problem: it's all about the juice head magnets

Earlier Closing Time is Not the Solution

But it IS Time for an Adult Conversation

Another Saturday night, another drunken brawl in the Saratoga Springs bar district . So went the downtown action last evening. This time, four city officers were injured during the festivities.

The squawk box signaled for a squad to attend a full-out melee that was going down in the upstairs joint at #30 Caroline Street called Club Shadow. That initial call came in shortly after 3AM.

But this particular group of rowdies was not content to mellow out once the uniformed civil safety servants showed. On the contrary: the officers themselves became targets as all hell continued breaking loose. Eventually, the leading combatants were herded downstairs and into the street, but that just made matter worse as the expanded arena encouraged more players to join in the action; and that they did. The entire overnight shift of the SSPD was not enough to quell the turmoil and a mutual aid call went out to neighboring agencies, who responded in haste. A seasoned observer likened the scene to the recent Vancouver hockey riots.

A few arrests, a few hospital visits, a little extra overtime to wash away the blood and sweep up the broken glass --- and everything is back in order and up and running to serve what should (hopefully) be a smaller and better-behaved Sunday night sampling of our modern day Leisure Class.

Meanwhile, the chatter bugs of the Spa City's wise & reasoned elite are expressing their usual outrage over this development -- and rightfully so. But, as seems to be the norm in this once great city in the foothills of the Adirondacks, stupidity breeds more of the same.

As could be predicted, the prevailing suggestion as the recommended course of action is the usual call to roll back the closing time for drinking establishments. Last call at 1AM! Midnight! 11PM! One online forum even has a suggestion of 7PM -- with no hours at all on Sundays. We could detour here into an account of the latent Puritanical ethic of the city's supposedly liberal-leaning new immigrant population; but we'll refrain from such an exercise and concentrate on the direct matter at hand.

But first, there should be a consensus that Saratoga has, indeed, worked itself into a dilemma and has a pressing problem. Granted, a seasonal tourist town with a rich and colorful history of gambling, rum-running and mob ties will have the associated art of drinking built into its collective DNA. Gin mills have long been an important part of the city's social and economic fabric, professionally serving visitors, Skiddies and hometown natives, decade after decade.

Fast forward to the modern hour, however, and that three-way balancing act has gone down the tubes. Skidmore students (or their pursuers from nearby colleges) are not the problem: the 18yo drinking age, combined with an aversion to the downtown scene, has taken this group pretty much out of the picture. The same can be concluded for the resident population: the city's aging demographic population is not apt to ring up their pals for a quick pop down at the Tin & Lint.

The constituency that has tipped the apple car is the out-of-town faction, both in its size and its scope. But it's not the usual supsects --the racing season glitterati -- that is the problem. Instead, it is a more recent player on the scene that is to blame.

One must recognize the fact that Saratoga's party season has been extended in recent times. What was once the August Place to Be is now the Summer Place to Be. The compact and manageable four-week sprint of cty mayhem has now been extended into a summer-long marathon, starting around Derby Day and continuing into the nights when the cool Canadian air begins to make its presence felt. The season no longer is defined strictly by the race meet; rather the race meet is but one portion (albeit it a critical one) of the local cash register window of opportunity.

The reasons for this trend (The I Love New York campaign, NYRA's downstate vs upstate fortunes, aggressive local marketing, etc) have been pointed out in this forum previously. These and other initiatives set the steamroller into motion, and the doors to the city as a summer-long party spot were flung wide open. Demand (cash carrying visitors) pushed the action, and Economics 101 kicked in and the Supply side of the equation (more and more social establishments opening for business) responded.

The other phenomena worth mentioning is the WHO behind this mob onslaught of party animals. Whereas in the 100+ years prior the key component of this constituency was out-of-state race-track related folks, for the past three-plus decades they have been dwarfed by a more regional (35-mile radius) demographic. So, whereas Saratoga was Ground Zero as the August home of the national thoroughbred crowd, it is now not only that but it is also the Bar District for the entire Capital Region.

There lies the problem -- if, that is, one considers violence, public drunkenness / urination / puking, excessive noise and a mob mentality to be a problem. If you don't, I suggest you ring up someone that lives within five blocks of The Gut to hear their opinion of the matter. (For kicks: follow that up with a call to anyone living near Siro's).

But don't go running to any of the local professional organizations for help: the Chamber of Commerce is only concerned with commerce, and the Downtown Business Association is only concerned with business. Neither one has Quality of Life as a primary mission component. City officials will likewise be hesitant to take such a call; sales tax receipts and parking fees are the key to the mint, after all, for the representatives of a population imprisoned by their mortgage and scared to death of their next property tax bill. Not to mention the high rents that can be enjoyed by their political backers. Nightly mayhem? Bah: chalk it up as collateral damage for a greater good. So goes the attitude, anyways.

So what we have it this: a virtual anything goes bar zone has arisen with the implicit blessing of the city's political and business classes. Within that footprint exists a disproportionate number of bottom-feeding establishments catering to the worst subset of the Capital Region's youth. I speak, of course, of those places seeking to attract the Hip Hop Nation and the DJ Culture to their joints; branding themselves with the usual keywords of "upscale lounge," "VIP sections," "table and bottle service," 'sophisticated clientele" and so on. Look 'em up; there must be ten of them.

Who, then, walks into these places on a Saturday night in June? Let's paint this ugly picture: buffed-up twenty-something juice heads from the outlying region who spend their days lifting iron followed by two hours in the bathroom getting prettied-up for a night of kicking ass and grabbing chicks.

Upon arrival, the dialog with like-minded strangers centers around "what gym do you go to?" and "where did you get that ink?" that soon evolves into deep intellectual conversations on "did you just look at my girl's tits?" and whether Party A showed proper respect for Party B. Add to the mix the Crips & Bloods bangers from Schenectady up for a night of meeting suburban girls with Daddy issues, and the setting is ripe for action. All while the DJ with his hat on backwards spins those mind-numbing sample beats he lifted from somebody with actual talent as the door staff is frisking the entering clientele for iron and lead.

Saratoga's problem is not 'bars' or 'nightclubs' -- it is bars or nightclubs catering to the element described above. Need proof? Tell me how many 50-person fights ever broke out at the Parting Glass in its 20+ years of existence? Repeat that exercise for 9 Maple Avenue or countless other long running venues. Heck, you can even toss Putnam Den into the mix: they, too, cater to a young crowd -- but they are well behaved and never has there been a problem of the scale we just witnessed at this bottom feeding pit called Club Shadow over the weekend.

Likewise, a rollback of Closing Time is hardly the answer. Such a law would be applicable to all places; and we just saw how the problem is not a universal issue. In addition, logic would conclude that disbanding the total concept of a closing time (i.e., let bars stay open 24 hours if they so choose) would likely be a better detriment to "it's almost closing time, I'd better get my drink on now before it's too late" mentality.

But all of this is too complicated for our collective "gimme the solution in one sentence or less" attention span. Your typical Saratogian of today hasn't seen the inside of a bar room in ten years, and has no real stake in the game. "Keep the mobs coming -- just make sure they're gone the next morning when it's time for church or my morning coffee at Uncommon Grounds."

Unless of course, he or she lives within staggering distance of this downtown madness.

I don't know how the city can legally and fairly chase these kind of places out of town. But I sure wish someone would start looking into it.



Here's an actual flyer for Club Shadow, promoting one of their speical event nights. More DJs that one can shake a stick at! Now, remember people: no du rags!


The club's liquor license has been suspended; and its doors shut by ownership as a result. They are hopeful of rectifying that situation. I think we gave them the pathway to getting there.

Our invoice is on its way. Net 10.


Kim said...

Making friends again, I see.

But that's why we love you....

Red Head Fred said...

You sure can write I will give you that. But you're still an a-hole!!!

Anonymous said...

good work

Broderick Crawford said...

"...Crips & Bloods bangers from Schenectady up for a night of meeting suburban girls with Daddy issues..."

There's no better way to get your revenge on dear old pop than to hook up with one of these fine young gentleman, now, is there?

Anonymous said...

Double the price for drinks at 2 am....triple at 3 am...

CLA said...

I grew up in Saratoga and have fond memories of my life there. But when I return for a visit every few years, the place makes me sick to my stomach. The same reaction is universal when I talk to others in the same boat.


R U sure ya wanna mess with these guys? Did ya happen to catch the names of the owners? Hint: they end in vowels.

Anonymous said...

Police Department should crack down so hard on DWI in the weeks ahead that no one from out of town dares to drive to Saratoga for a few drinks on the weekend.

Eco-local Guy said...

Are you suggesting that there should be a ban on Hip Hop clubs? That'll force the race card, and you know where that goes. The brawls are just the cost of doing bid-niss, my man. Just like dropping bombs tends to kill a few civilians. Collateral damage, they like to call it. If the neighbors don't like it, then a realtor is a phone call away, they be happy to oblige in their exit plan. Seems there are plenty of takers for downtown residences. Ever been to South Street in Glens Falls? THey got their rowdies, too, albeit more home grown. One place gets shut down for the chaos, another takes it's place. There's just too damn much money in the game to shut it down. FYI...Troy is pretty civilized these days. Forget 'Toga...enjoy Troy!

Anonymous said...

Eco Guy

Where is it written that his city (do you live here?) has as its destiny being the social club for the Capital District's ghetto youth and Guido Boyz?

e said...

Well put, Anon @ 11:00.
Notice, too, the out of town ownership of these gang club houses.

Home Run Baker said...

Well put. Bars aren't the problem. Certain types of bars are the problem.
Race card? No, it's a lifestyle card.
The white boy Long Island clubs are exactly what was described here (and extra heavy on the Guidos), and they are always a freaking mess every night of the week.

Long time reader, first time commentator said...

WTF is a Du Rag?

DuRag Donnie said...

Oh good, DJ XXXRated is performing. I've been waiting for this day my whole life. Where do I buy tickets?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Double the price for drinks at 2 am....triple at 3 am...