Illegal drinking around U

The University said it has sent letters to local businesses to help stop underage drinking.

by Lora Pabst

The University is investigating whether some underage Gophers men’s hockey players violated NCAA rules by drinking at Blarney Pub and Grill in Dinkytown.

But underage drinking on college campuses isn’t limited to athletes. It also affects students, business owners, neighbors and University officials.

Frank Kara, director of the University’s Office of Athletic Compliance, said the University communicates with business owners in areas adjacent to campus about underage drinking.

“The most recent (action) was sending out letters to business owners associations for both Dinkytown and Stadium Village,” he said.

Kara did not comment on any further communication between the University and business owners while the investigation is under way. He said the University sends letters to business owners every couple of years and will continue to do so.

Business owners are responsible for making sure they don’t serve any underage people. For business owners in the University community, this can often be a challenge because some students use fake IDs.

Jim Sander, whose wife, Georgia, owns Kafe 421 in Dinkytown, said underage drinking and excessive serving of alcohol has always been a problem in the neighborhood.

“It hurts the reputation of the community as a whole to have underage drinking,” he said. “We have emphasized to our staff the importance of carding people.”

Sander said celebrity status of student-athletes might tempt some business owners to let them in, even if they are underage.

“It’s important for the community to be careful of that, because a lot of people have made big investments in businesses,” he said. “The city is really tough on licensing.”

Lt. Robert Skomra, head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s license investigation division, told Fox 9 news he is beginning an investigation of Blarney Pub and Grill.

Sander also said the environment of an establishment and how they price drinks has a lot to do with attracting underage drinkers.

“You have an extra responsibility if you set yourself up as a bar,” he said. “We’re not selling our (alcohol) to promote overconsuming.”

Florence Littman, vice president of the Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association, said that for a business to get a liquor license it must have a public hearing in the neighborhood. Residents can say whether they support or don’t support the liquor license.

“Usually, if they meet the minimum requirements they get (the license),” Littman said. “We think a full liquor license should be for full-service restaurants.”

Littman said that to improve a community, neighbors need to frequent neighborhood businesses to establish relationships. She also said more contact with the city would encourage the enforcement of laws.

“We always hope we have more business owners that live in the neighborhood,” she said.

Prospect Park is adjacent to Stadium Village, where a lot of businesses that attract students are located.

Students are also concerned about whether businesses give student-athletes special privileges.

Ammanuel Selameab, an undecided first-year student, said private businesses should be able to give special treatment to whomever they want, but student-athletes should still follow NCAA rules.

“If the student-athlete agreed to a contract, they should follow that,” he said. “Just like anybody else, if you don’t think it’s a fair contract then you shouldn’t have signed up for it.”

Selameab said the severity of the violation should determine punishment.

“It would make sense why (student-athletes) would get preferential treatment, but I don’t think anyone should get special treatment,” he said.

Vernes Velagic, an economics and German junior, said student-athletes get special treatment because they are symbols of the University.

“It’s OK to a certain limit as long as it doesn’t break the law,” he said. “I think they went a little too far with the underage drinking.

“It’s not fair, but it happens, it’s just natural,” he said. “It’s society, don’t try to understand it.”

Hunter Goetzman, a history junior, said, “It’s pretty ridiculous (student-athletes get preferential treatment).

“We’re living in a day and age where athletes aren’t at the forefront of our culture. Now you have musicians, actors and scientists.”

Goetzman said student-athletes need to be responsible for their actions.

“The University shouldn’t have to travel around with student-athletes,” he said. “These are college students that aren’t living with their mothers.”