Mayor braces for longer holiday

Celebrators of Unofficial stand outside in line for Station 211, 211 East Green St. in Champaign, March 2, 2007. Erica Magda

Beck Diefenbach

Celebrators of Unofficial stand outside in line for Station 211, 211 East Green St. in Champaign, March 2, 2007. Erica Magda

By Eric Anderson

An emergency order issued by Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweigart aims to hamper students from drinking themselves green, this Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

Schweigart listed the high-risk behavior associated with the “holiday” as basis to impose limitations on all businesses holding liquor licenses.

The emergency order will be in effect from Friday to Sunday, combating the possibility of a two-day Unofficial.

Although the order recycles many of last year’s restrictions, it includes a new clause that allows police to order all Class P retailers – liquor stores and general retailers – to close if pedestrian traffic impedes vehicular traffic.

“Personally, I think it might make more sense to close Green Street or essentially make it pedestrian only from Wright to Fourth (streets), for this weekend,” said Justin Randall, student body president and senior in LAS. “Frankly it doesn’t make sense to have cars in that congested of an area during this time because we’re just asking for an accident.”

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A multi-jurisdictional effort to curb risks means University, Champaign and Urbana police will put more officers on the streets.

“If you choose to participate and you’re doing something that is illegal, there’s a good chance that there will be consequences,” said Jeff Christensen, University chief of police.

Last year, 162 students received drinking tickets, about a third of which were issued to University students.

Christensen said the police’s goal is simple: Keep everyone safe.

“Arrests and citations are indications but poor measure of success,” Christensen said. “We want to keep everyone safe.”

Students have to look out for other students, he added.

The police have considered rumors of a two-day Unofficial seriously enough to develop contingency plans.

“This is a new piece to it,” Christensen said. “Saturday is an unknown. We would sincerely hope that Saturday is no different from any other Saturday.”

Randall said a two-day Unofficial is unlikely.

“I mean, honestly, as a student, Saturday has never been a drinking day,” Randall said. “It’s usually been a day where everyone sleeps for the next 17 hours.”

The Student Advisory Committee, a committee composed of various student leaders from several groups across campus, spoke with University Police on Feb. 13 to discuss campus safety issues.

Police told the student leaders to be wary of party-prepped students streaming in from other campuses.

“If you look at the Final Four championship game, our students treat this campus with respect,” Christensen said. “You get problems when people come in that don’t have that ownership … especially in an event that’s solely focused around alcohol.”

Randall agreed that non-University students generate much of Unofficial’s unruly behavior.

“It’s typically not our students, frankly, that are causing the problems,” Randall said. “It’s mostly students that come in from out of town, don’t know the town, don’t know anything about Champaign-Urbana, don’t know anything about the University of Illinois that then come and receive drinking citations.”

In an attempt to keep intoxicated students from disrupting classes, the emergency order prevents bars from opening until 11 a.m.

Randall said he is in favor of opening bars at 8 a.m. to keep students seeking an early-bird buzz in a more controlled environment.

“Think about any apartment party you’re at,” Randall said. “Everyone’s drunk, including the people that are throwing the party. When you’re in a bar you have sober employees that are watching over everyone.”

Police assured the Student Advisory Committee that law-abiding students who respectfully represent the University are entitled to enjoy Unofficial.

“If you want to go out and get drunk and you’re 10 feet tall and bullet proof and you’re (a) mean drunk and you want to take on a group of three or four people, you’re going to the can,” said Skip Frost, lieutenant with the University police department. “Don’t be the story.”

Highlights of the Mayor’s Unofficial Emergency Order restrictions:

  • Restaurants and bars in the campus area may not serve alcohol before 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 29 and Saturday, March 1.
  • These establishments may not serve pitchers of alcohol or shots of hard liquor, and all drinks must be served in paper or plastic cups on Feb. 29 and March 1.
  • All campus bars must have a doorman, aged 21 or older, present and checking IDs at all entrances during the hours of operation.
  • The Mayor’s Office will not be issuing any keg permits for parties, making it illegal to possess more than one keg per residence during this two-day event.
  • For establishments licensed to sell package liquor, an Adult Responsibility Form must be completed by the purchaser and kept on file prior to the sale of the following quantities of alcohol: 168 or more 12 ounce containers of beer or malt beverage; 24 or more one-liter bottles of distilled spirits and/or one keg.

Source: Feb. 22 press release from the City of Champaign