Gerard plans to issue emergency order for 'Unofficial'
CHAMPAIGN — Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Don Gerard said he plans on issuing an emergency order again for March 1 and 2 to moderate the flow of liquor on campus while University of Illinois students and their guests drink through the weekend.
The idea, he said, is to minimize house and apartment parties where there is the most potential for trouble.
"We have a lot of property damage, injuries and potential for mayhem," Gerard said.
In the past, city officials have limited the sale of alcohol on campus only as far west as the train tracks. Gerard said that geographic area will be widened a bit this year to include businesses such as Fat City Bar and Grill and Hollywood Liquors, both of which are immediately west of the tracks.
As liquor commissioner, Gerard has the authority to issue an emergency order and make the city's laws on alcohol more stringent for a short period when he determines that the health, safety or welfare of residents is in danger.
Gerard has been making use of that authority on Unofficial St. Patrick's Day weekend since he took office in 2011, and then-Mayor Jerry Schweighart had done so for years before that. "Unofficial" is officially held on a Friday — this year on March 1 — but the festivities and the mayor's emergency order usually extend into the following Saturday and early Sunday morning.
Last year, Gerard restricted bar entry to those 21 and over, limited keg and other sales at liquor stores, prohibited special pricing by bars and required someone at the door of each campus bar to check identification, among other restrictions.
Even though the city or the university try to distance themselves from the campuswide party, Gerard said, it is important to acknowledge the event for the danger it poses.
"I'm pleased that the university is actually working with us to have more of a message to actually be safe," Gerard said.
Gerard said the university will be taking steps again to alert students and their parents to the dangers of "Unofficial."
While steps are being made to keep everyone as safe as possible, Gerard said city officials cannot stop students of legal age from drinking alcohol.
"It's just a bad idea," Gerard said.