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If there was ever a need to sit down and examine the results of a well-intended experiment, the dust-up over a ban on younger patrons at Chippewa Street bars offers that opportunity.
Bar employees and a couple of bar owners confronted city lawmakers the other day over the ending of Thursday “college nights,” the only time when those younger than 21 were allowed inside bars after 10 p.m.
The six-month experiment has just ended and, according to those who work in the district’s bar and entertainment industry, business on Thursdays has slowed to a crawl.
Instead of patronizing Chippewa Street, groups of friends who are out having a good time and do not want their underage buddies to be left out will head to other parts of the city where bars are not forced to ban underage patrons.
Supporters of “commingling,” allowing people between the ages of 18 and 20 to go into bars in the Chippewa district, may have a legitimate argument, but they also need to remember why the ban was instituted in the first place.
Before the Common Council passed the ban in March, with the Thursday exception, underage patrons were allowed in bars in the district every night of the week, and that became a problem.
Enough business owners were upset over rowdy and even criminal behavior that they brought their gripes to Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the district.
In fact, there was concern from key figures in the Chippewa Entertainment District who insisted that without new restrictions, the district would become a “ghost town.”
Now there are those who feel that Chippewa Street – the district is bounded by Tupper Street, Main Street, Elmwood Avenue and Seneca Street – is being unfairly targeted.
Allowing underage patrons into a bar is a tricky issue. Responsible employees who diligently check identification and provide wrist bands for those who can legally drink may not be able to spot older friends passing their underage buddies a shot.
Pridgen wisely declined to take a position on extending the Thursday night experiment, commenting that he was “blindsided” by the sudden opposition to the total ban. He is rightly taking time to consider the issue. To make an informed decision, Council members need to hear more from bar owners, neighborhood leaders, the police and others.