Unofficial has mayors preparing for event they'd like to see gone

Unofficial has mayors preparing for event they'd like to see gone

On March 2, mayors Diane Marlin and Deb Feinen will hope for inclement weather.

"Personally, I wouldn't mind if a blizzard happened," Marlin said with a laugh.

That might be the only thing stopping the Campustown drinking fest known as Unofficial St. Patrick's Day. Last year's event was marred by tragedy when Jonathan Morales, a 23-year-old UI student from the Chicago suburbs, fell off an apartment balcony at 51 E. John St. and died from his injuries.

The third Unofficial-related fatality in 12 years led UI Chancellor Robert Jones to call on the community to help "end this event."

Twenty-two days before this year's event, there are no signs of that happening.

As Marlin noted in an emergency order issued Wednesday that regulates Urbana liquor rules during the event: "As of the date of this order, thousands have used social-networking sites to announce they are attending."

A Facebook event titled "Unofficial 2018" has over 860 people marked as going and over 1,480 interested in attending.

Marlin said she and Feinen have been meeting with Jones about Unofficial but haven't discovered an antidote for the persistent tradition.

"I'm an optimist about most things, but I don't know what will happen," Marlin said about the likelihood of Unofficial ending. "It has toned down from what it used to be in the 2000s."

This year's holiday will be Marlin's first as the mayor of Urbana and Feinen's third at the helm in Champaign. Making it through each year is like a hard-earned badge of honor.

"It takes a mental toll," Feinen said. "It's exhausting and you just spend all day worrying and hoping nothing bad will happen."

In all, there were about 114 citations issued during Unofficial 2017, the fewest in 10 years. Thirty people were treated at hospitals for intoxication issues.

Both Marlin and Feinen plan to spend time the next three weeks coordinating with the UI and first responders before taking to the streets themselves on the first Friday in March.

"I think last year, I didn't go home until after bar close," Feinen said. "And I know the stress it puts on our first responders throughout the day."

The mayors impose yearly emergency orders to keep campus bars from opening before 10 a.m., holding private functions with special drink pricing or serving beer in pitchers.

The bar-entry age is raised from 19 to 21 for the weekend, and Feinen said students who call for emergency assistance won't be ticketed for drinking.

Marlin said she typically worries about everything as part of her job, but the coordinated pre-planning and preparation is helping her stay calm.

"I feel a responsibility when someone gets hurt," she said. "You always feel responsible for what goes on in the community ... but responsibility also lies with the individuals and the choices they make."

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CommonSenseless wrote on February 08, 2018 at 8:02 am

If you want to control it, embrace it.  Close the streets encourage it to happen in a public space.  Engage landlords to include no party/keg clauses in the lease agreements.  Allow the bars to be open early and late.  The cities could even sell bracelets for admission.  A good part of the attraction is the taboo nature, a thumb of the nose to authority.

787 wrote on February 08, 2018 at 11:02 am

Here's what the cities need to do.  Say the cost (of fire and police services) to the cities for last year's event was estimated at $200,000... and there were 1,200 citations written.

$200,000 divided by 1200 = $167.

There's your answer. Then for this year, all citations issued that are related to Unofficial are now $167 each,

It would at least see to it that the cities (and the taxpayers) might recover some of their losses from this.

Don't like it?  Think it is unfair?    Then either grow up, or stay at home.

Bikingtownie wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 am

Under 21 consuming alcohol has a minimum fine of $350 in Champaign. 

nschne393 wrote on February 08, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Here we go again, another Unofficial and another setting of crack down rules.


How to stop?  Open bar entry to all ages, underage drinking still arrested and ones that serve get penalized.   Don't allow any new building to landlords who don't abide by rules that limit private party size on their property.   Increase fines for those that disobey nuisance laws, enforce them and don't let Judge Difanis tell you otherwise.


What can the U of I do?   Pull contracts with the vendors who sell U of I merchandise, one of which is the Offical provider of U of I merchandise, that sell green Unofficial shirts.  You can't stop all the online things but you can stop the local ones who make a quick buck from oddly designed shirts.


nschne393 wrote on February 08, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Dup. wrote on February 08, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Oddly designed shirts?


Code word for Chief merchandise


The Mayor Grandma and Mayor Giggles have about chance of stopping this like they do  the tide.  As they put in restrictions on delivery by stores, they only include C U...The merchants in Savoy are all about delivering in Champaign.


Everyone makes money


The cops in overtime


The Cities in fines and sale tax...........


the hospitals in fee's incurred by drinking along with the ambulance companies...


No losers...... only winners.......


Party on Garth.

Chambanacitizen wrote on February 08, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Shirts aren't always about the chief. Only when chief supporters make noise. This year's leading shirt vote has nothing to do with the chief.
But still as tasteless and vile...

jparks wrote on February 09, 2018 at 7:02 am

The question to city officials is, do you want it to stop, meaning END, or do you want citizens to think that you want it to stop?

If you really, really want it to stop, try this.  You determine and control Ordinance Violations.  Instead of making underage drinking a $300 fine, make it a $3,000 fine with a one year suspension from school for the FIRST offense. The school can join the fight. Public intoxication goes from $350 to $5000 with a two year suspension from school.  Serving alcohol to minors at parties hosted by fraternities and sororities comes with a $20,000 fine and your establishment is on suspension for five years.

If you think the fines or suspensions are to low, you might be right.

Do you want it to stop or do you just want to make people think you want it to stop?


Bikingtownie wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 am

The state and judiciary set the maximum fine for ordinance tickets as $750, so even if the cities wanted to ask for more, they can't. 

Chazman wrote on February 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
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Reschedule Moms Weekend or Dads Weekend for that same weekend.  There may not be much of a problem if campus is flooded with incoming parents on March 2nd.