Bursting Champaign’s bubbly

By Courtney Linehan

Once upon a time, in a land known as the Six Pack, there lived a college freshman. We’ll call her Courtney. No relation.

Courtney was one of the youngest freshmen at Illinois, and as such, was not old enough to enter campus bars with all of her friends who had already turned 19. Luckily for Courtney, though, she had a fake ID named Lorraine.

Lorraine and Courtney went everywhere together – Wine Night, Bomb Night, Country Night, Saturday night. They didn’t look much alike, but because they were both blondes, people always thought they were the same person. They were best friends. Until one night when Lorraine got taken away at KAMS.

Fast-forward four years to this Tuesday when the Champaign City Council debated new restrictions for the places Courtney and Lorraine loved to visit. For about two hours it covered everything from shot girls to sales of full bottles of alcohol to private parties with reduced alcohol prices. Councilmembers supporting the restrictions argued that shot girls are unable to monitor overconsumption, Wine Night causes too many hospital visits, and reduced drink prices at private parties encourage binge drinking.

They’re right.

Those opposing the restrictions said it was unfair to punish all Champaign bars and all Champaign bar-goers for the abuses of a few. They said shots are part of the bar experience, and that bar owners should be allowed to hold special promotions at their businesses.

They’re right, too.

In the past few years, local government has spent countless hours proposing new restrictions intended to squelch the overconsumption of alcohol that is often considered part of the college experience. But the entire time, many of the proponents of these restrictions have ignored one simple fact: It ain’t gonna work.

College kids like Courtney (remember, no relation) will always find ways to drink. If the City Council restricts access to bars, students will simply move to frat houses and apartments, where legitimate 21-year-olds will buy alcohol and pass it off to their underage friends. They’ll continue to get tanked, but this time there will be no way to raid the bars and run them out, to have bartenders monitor their consumption and bouncers eject or report those who have had too much.

When Courtney and Lorraine went to the bars, Courtney was always afraid of getting caught. She never drank enough to put herself or anyone else in danger. And the one night Courtney, Lorraine and friends pregamed enough that they were sloppy when they arrived at KAMS, the bouncer took one look at Lorraine, put the ID in his pocket, and sent Courtney home.

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart made a good point at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, saying if the city really wanted to restrict bar activity it should just raise the entrance age to 21. I agree. I’ve been to every Big Ten campus, and none allow underage patrons in the bars.

But I don’t think that’s the solution to our problem.

Nothing will stop drinking on college campuses. Only responsible bar staff – like that bouncer at KAMS – and responsible adults (which 18-year-old college students are) can limit drinking’s danger.