‘Beer festival’ causes stir at City meeting

By Eric Heisig

The University came to the City of Champaign to make a case against Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, scheduled for Friday.

Richard Herman, chancellor of the University, went before the Champaign City Council Tuesday night to denounce Unofficial, saying the safety of the students is more important than any holiday.

“Parents have trusted me with their students,” Herman said. “With an open heart, I remember the faces of the students, and I do not want to lose any more of our young people.”

During the speech, Herman made reference to Caroline Yoon, the University student who died during Unofficial in March of 2006.

“I don’t want to wait for the next death,” he said. “I want to act now.”

Following his speech, Herman offered additional stipulations the city should enforce, including only allowing people 21 and over into the bars and having the bars remain closed until 5 p.m.

“I don’t want to see kids drunk on the street at 8 a.m.,” Herman said.

Herman said he wished Scott Cochrane, owner of multiple campus bars, would come forward and be a part of the Unofficial dialogue.

“We are allowing Scott Cochrane to define this community, to define who we are and what we want to be,” Herman said.

Jerry Schweighart, mayor of the city of Champaign, went over the rules he enacted for the coming weekend, including an 11 a.m. opening time for the bars, plastic cups and utensils, no shots or whiskeys, and no pitchers.

“It’s basically a beer fest,” Schweighart said.

The mayor said he and the city attorney have been looking into the possibility of issuing an executive order to raise the bar age to 21, but nothing has been decided.

Not all members of the city council took Herman’s speech favorably.

“He offered no suggestions,” said Michael LaDue, Deputy Mayor and Dist. 2 Council Member for the City of Champaign. “There was nothing prescriptive in there. He basically got up and said ‘I am very concerned.'”

But, LaDue said he disagreed with Cochrane advertising in other cities and busing them to campus for Unofficial.

“We don’t issue licenses to promote patronage in other communities,” LaDue said.

LaDue also said it was late for the council to take any action for the weekend; any actions have to be taken by Mayor Schweighart.

Champaign City Council holds its meetings on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m.