Champaign mayor sets Unofficial St. Patrick's Day rules
Alcohol sales restrictions, more police will be in place for event
CHAMPAIGN – Unofficial St. Patrick's Day is expanding into a two-day event this year, and Mayor Jerry Schweighart is issuing an emergency order restricting alcohol sales in the Campustown area.
The order applies to this coming Friday and Saturday, Feb. 29-March 1, and is similar to the emergency order Schweighart, the city's liquor commissioner, issued last year.
– Restaurants and bars in the campus area won't be able to serve alcohol until 11 a.m.
– Sales of pitchers of beer or other alcoholic drinks, as well as shots of hard liquor, won't be allowed in the campus area.
– All drinks will have to be served in paper or plastic cups.
– All campus bars must have a doorman, age 21 or older, present and checking identification at all entrances during the bar's hours of operation.
– The mayor's office won't issue any keg permits for parties, meaning it will be illegal to have more than one keg per residence during the two-day event.
– For package liquor stores, customers will have to fill out an "adult responsibility form" that the liquor store must keep on file. Filling out the form will be required for anyone purchasing one keg; 168 (seven cases) or more 12-ounce containers of beer or malt beverages; or 24 or more one-liter bottles of hard liquor.
The adult responsibility form indicates the address where the alcohol will be served, according to Assistant City Attorney Laura Hall. It is similar to what the city requires year-round for keg purchases, she said.
Schweighart said he is dismayed that this year's event is expanding to two days and warned that the city will have an expanded presence in Campustown on Friday and Saturday.
"There will be a lot of extra police," he said.
Schweighart said he, as the city's liquor commissioner, has the power to close the campus bars entirely if he thinks that is necessary. But he indicated some reluctance in taking that step.
"If it's a danger, I can shut them down," he said. "But if you have thousands of drunks roaming the streets, that's not a good situation."
Police Chief R.T. Finney said Champaign, Urbana, University of Illinois police and Illinois State Police have planned a joint effort and will be out in force.
"We'll have an increased uniform presence," he said. "We'll also be monitoring keg sales and house parties, as well as the bars and crowds outside the bars."
Police Lt. Brad Yohnka said the department will have its full allotment of regular officers, with days off canceled, plus teams of officers working overtime who will be devoted exclusively to policing the Campustown area. He declined to give specific numbers.
"We'll have a good number of police officers available," Yohnka said. "We're putting a lot of resources on the ground to keep a lid on things."
Schweighart said the event, promoted by campus bar owner Scott Cochrane, is being marketed both locally and at other campuses, encouraging youths to "drink yourself green."
Drinking often begins early in the morning and continues throughout the day. The event has resulted in increased calls to the police and fire departments.
Last year, police arrested 119 youths on Unofficial for underage drinking, 22 people for carrying open alcohol, seven for fighting, six for battery and five for resisting arrest.
The University of Illinois has invoked a "no tolerance" policy for academic disruption and will have faculty and staff in its facilities monitoring behavior.
The Champaign Fire Department will be inspecting bars for overcrowding and life-safety code compliance, in addition to monitoring balcony load limits in private residences.