SLA Overkill

People’s Livelihoods are at Stake Here! A Editorial

Rabble rousers? Really? ( file photo)

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.

 “To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”

– William Congreve

The Mourning Bride



I guess things haven’t been hard enough on our local live musicians lately. Two years of cancelled performances haven’t been enough. Let’s Pour it On!

For those in need of a recap, here are the conditions pronounced by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) upon Gaffney’s for them to re-open (Note: if you need a recap as to WHY these conditions were imposed, I truly wonder why you are reading this. Anyway…)

Terms and conditions:
$70,000 fine.
Last call at 1:30 a.m. and closing at 2 a.m.
Metal-detecting wands used on all patrons entering after 9:30 p.m.
Use of an ID scanner for all patrons, with scanner records stored for 90 days.

“Recorded background music only.” (My emphasis added)

Call to police required for all physical altercations.
Follow all stipulations included in a memorandum of understanding with the Saratoga police department.

Another sigh.

For the record, no tear gas vapors were photoshopped out of this file photo

While my overall layman’s read on this list is that civil liberties lawyers could have a field day here, the current ownership of Gaffney’s has indicated they will comply. Just a cost of doing business I guess. And really, what choice do they have? SLA’s have as close to total autocratic authority as exists in this country, and in the opinion of many, they brought these things onto themselves.

But I offer the perspective of one who coordinated the live music calendar at Gaffney’s for several years under John Baker’s ownership (AKA to many: Gaffney’s Golden Age,) and that perspective compels me to say:

SLA, you threw out threw out the baby with the bathwater here.

Common sense dictates that it is not programming live music per se’ that causes rowdyness and fights, but the TYPE of live music you program. Pure and simple.

It’s called responsibility. And certainly Gaffney’s under the current regime has programmed with an eye towards money (how much will we make on this act) versus quality of experience. And, no, none of us want to have the SLA review a venue’s live music calendar.

Common sense should prevail. I don’t mean to denegrate any genre, but if you program a certain type of music, you get a certain fan base that turns out for it.

And even though we programmed for a good times vibe when I was at Gaffney’s, what made the guests, and myself, feel safe at all times were an extremely well-trained staff (security and bartenders) that descended from the top down. And that must be a part of any solution going forward.

If you do it right, live music can be an agent for a calm flow and a great customer experience. There’s a reason William Congreve’s adage has stayed true for 325 years.

Responsible programming can insure that this old saying stays true. But also true is the saying “You reap what you sow.”

And you don’t make a farmer stop planting because they had a bad crop. You encourage them to better techniques.

Arthur Gonick – June 14, 2022

5 Replies to “SLA Overkill”

  1. Are you under the impression that Gaffney’s would somehow bring back local talent? They have not had one local artist since the ownership change. They were bringing in national acts and that was the justification for the cover. How many national acts were act Gaffney’s back in the day? None. Because it was not being run as a concert venue as it has been in the past year.

    They weren’t suddenly going to bring in local acts, and trust me, I’m sure the Jersey Shore cast (some of the “talent” they brought in) will find plenty of other gigs in actual concert venues.


    1. Hi Colleen,
      First of all – thanks for reading.
      As far as your comment, you are mostly correct. The “Jersey Shore” and other national acts are definitely the current regime’s doing. But some locals were retained, and they are whom I expressed concern about.
      For instance, their Friday happy hour continued to be hosted by locals Rick Bolton and Jeff Walton with their friends. Also, an open mic run by Rick on Tuesdays welcomed everyone: visitors, locals, even kids who were slotted early. It is this programming that I’ll miss, and hope it finds another home.


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