Checking in on safety: make coat checks mandatory


By Jason Schwartz

Yes, I realize it’s only late September and leaves are just beginning to turn to their beautiful autumn glow, but making free coat checks at campus bars a mandatory for bar-owners is a topic that needs to be discussed now. Even when the weather drops below freezing temperatures and it snows on campus, students at the University are not discouraged from going out at night – after all, we are the number one party school in the nation.

Whether it is 70 degrees or even ten, students on this campus will flock to bars as much as their workload allows. However, the dilemma arises when you realize that the majority of bars on this campus do not have any coat checks, and the only frequented bar on campus that does have a coat check, The Clybourne, charges cover to watch over your jacket.

I have a personal quarrel with this subject as I witnessed the direct consequences of what can happen when students are discouraged from wearing coats when they go out. During February of last year, I was walking home at 2 a.m. from the bar with my friend when we noticed a student passed out on the ice near Third and Chalmers. The temperature was below 20 degrees and the student passed out on the ground was wearing only a flannel with jeans.

Thankfully, my friend and I were able to pick the student up and walk him back to his house safely, but it is not far-fetched to imagine the worst that could have happened to him. This entire situation definitely could have been prevented with a coat check that allowed this man to wear his jacket when he went to the bars as opposed to thinking a flannel was sufficient enough during frigid temperatures.

Pao-Yi Warner, senior in LAS, is a head bartender at The Red Lion here on campus. Warner acknowledges that Red Lion does not have a coat check, and when asked if she thought Red Lion should look into one, she stated, “In theory, it’s a good idea, but when you think of the logistics it doesn’t work out so easily.”

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Warner went on to discuss how there are countless wallets and ID’s left on the Lion floor after each night, and she is sure people would forget their coats at the bar. Warner brings up a good point: having a coat check is certainly no easy fix, but despite the logistics, it is necessary option for students’ safety.

As it is, this situation leaves several students with the conundrum to either bring a coat and hope it doesn’t get stolen, or go out without a coat and risk getting frostbite. Not surprisingly, many students choose the latter, fearing losing their coat at a bar and believing in their “alcohol blanket” to get them home warm and safe.

The fear of losing your coat or having it stolen is not unwarranted, as I have had countless friends bring their coats to a bar and leave it behind some table only to come back a couple hours later and discover it has vanished. So the responsibility should be on the bar owners to create a coat check so students don’t have to choose between losing a coat and their safety.

There is no need for students to be put in danger over something that can be a simple fix.

Just for the sake of comparison, when I studied abroad in Barcelona, every bar or club that I went to had a coat check. When you consider that it never gets below 40 degrees in Barcelona, compared to the inevitable spells below zero degrees we see on campus every winter, it should be a no-brainer to make coat checks a mandatory operating procedure for any bar on campus.

City officials, please help us so we don’t have to choose between an expensive coat and our warmth. After all, drunk college kids aren’t always the best at decision-making.

Jason is a senior in LAS.

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