Champaign, Urbana announce alcohol restrictions for Unofficial St. Patrick's Day

Champaign, Urbana announce alcohol restrictions for Unofficial St. Patrick's Day

URBANA — It's that time of year again.

With Unofficial St. Patrick's Day less than a month away, city and university officials are re-asserting their condemnation of the annual Campustown drinking fest that has lead to three deaths in 12 years.

Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin and Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen of Champaign — each of whom also serves as their respective city's liquor commissioner — will once again invoke emergency orders regulating alcohol sales to help stem what they consider to be a "threat to the public health, safety and welfare" of the community.

Already, a Facebook event called "Unofficial 2019" has more than 1,800 people marked as going and more than 4,500 interested. But Marlin and Feinen hope that their alcohol rules will keep booze away from as many people as possible.

Liquor-license holders won't be allowed to serve alcohol or let people drink inside between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m. on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. They're also prohibited from hosting private functions and selling pitchers and whole bottles. Also, no keg permits will be issued.

The bar-entry age will be raised from 19 to 21 for the weekend, and as in the past, those who need emergency assistance will not be ticketed for drinking.

The most-recent Unofficial-related fatality — in 2017, when a student fell to his death from the interior balcony of an apartment complex — prompted UI Chancellor Robert Jones to call on the community to help "end this event." Marlin and Feinen have been meeting with Jones about it every year since.

In the past, Marlin's order said, Unofficial has led to a "significant increase in arrests" of intoxicated people on charges such as battery, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property and other public-order offenses.

The order also said hospitals often see a large increase in emergency-room admissions for dangerous levels of alcohol intoxication.