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Earlier beer sales ?at the Ralph sought

Here's a switch:

Two local state legislators, in an attempt to provide a safer drinking environment, have introduced legislation that would allow large sports stadiums in New York – including Ralph Wilson Stadium – to turn on their beer taps an hour earlier, at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

So how would an extra hour of drinking be safer?

Because it presumably would be more supervised than a tailgating party at a stadium parking lot. The measure also could cut down on underage, irresponsible and binge drinking, its backers say.

"People are hanging out, tailgating in these lots, at earlier times," said Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who sponsored the bill in the State Senate. "If [the teams] had the opportunity to open up their concession stands earlier, it could be more regulated."

As it stands now, there's a three-hour window, from 9 a.m. to noon, between legal drinking outside and inside Ralph Wilson Stadium. Last season, the Buffalo Bills moved back the opening of the stadium parking lots by an hour, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for 1 p.m. games.

Inside the stadium, and across New York, current state law prevents beer sales before noon on Sunday. That noon starting time dates back centuries, to the old blue laws from colonial times, when such restrictions on behavior were printed on blue paper.

For years, the Bills have had to walk a tightrope, pleasing both the fans who love the longer pre-game tailgating parties and others who complain about rowdy, alcohol-fueled behavior before and during the games.

"The idea was to get the fans out of the parking lots earlier," said State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, the bill's cosponsor. "[The Bills] thought there was better control inside the stadium."

Bills officials issued a brief statement on the issue late Monday: "Our focus remains to promote responsibility among our fans who attend games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, regardless of the time."

The bill, if passed, would have some other consequences. It would help thin out the fans' last-minute rush at the stadium gates just before kickoff. It also would add to the team's concessions revenues, as well as the state's share of sales tax on beer sales.

Despite their own version of the two-minute drill, Grisanti, Maziarz and other supporters didn't succeed in getting the bill passed before the State Legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday. But the bill is expected to be considered when the Legislature reconvenes in the fall.

Maziarz said some downstate colleagues had the impression the bill could hurt bars near New York City's Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, with the bars losing an hour's worth of beer sales to the stadiums.

Right now, Maziarz said, he's not sure the bill is such a great idea. He would like to study the effect on bars and restaurants further and learn more about how Bills fans, and other fans, view the proposed change.

"We just ran out of time," Maziarz said. "We want to take another look at it. There's no need to rush it."??