Group seeks restrictions on bar binge drinking

Some recommendations include a ban on happy hour and drinking games in bars.

No more happy hour? ThatâÄôs what some residents are suggesting to reduce binge drinking in Minneapolis âÄî especially around the University of Minnesota. A group of citizens under the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support is asking the City Council to form a work group to address the issue of binge drinking in the city and have proposed their own recommendations to consider, including a ban on happy hour. The City Council could review the recommendations and form a work group as early as March 9. The Public Health Advisory Committee is also interested in putting a ban on selling more than one drink to a person at a time and wants to prohibit drinking games at bars, according to city documents. Gretchen Musicant, Minneapolis health commissioner, said the group would also like the city to look into the effectiveness of its current enforcement efforts to reduce binge drinking and to reconsider zoning and licensing standards for liquor establishments near universities and other areas where young people are concentrated. âÄúIt is a societal issue that young people over-consume alcohol,âÄù Musicant said. âÄúWe know that when young people over-consume alcohol they are at a higher risk for sexual assault, suicide, and are more likely to engage in violent activity.âÄù But Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, said the group is making binge drinking just a University issue. âÄúBinge drinking and high-risk drinking is a problem throughout society, not just on college campuses,âÄù he said. Initial versions of the recommendations from the group focused on limiting drink specials just around the University, Ehlinger said, but after discussions with the University, the group acknowledged that this is an issue throughout the city. Ehlinger said he hopes the group can bring this issue beyond the city to the stateâÄôs health commissioner. âÄúIf the city effort would really help develop this boarder coalition of folks who look at alcohol abuse in the society, then I think they could have an impact,âÄù he said. Ehlinger said University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks and Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart also see binge drinking as a community issue and plan on âÄútaking the leadâÄù in making this a broader discussion. The Public Health Advisory Committee proposed the recommendations to the cityâÄôs Health, Energy and Environment Committee in December, but was told to discuss its recommendations with industry representatives before any action could be taken, John Dybvig, policy aide for councilmember Scott Benson, said. Frank Ball, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverages Association, said he is concerned with the groupâÄôs recommendation to further restrict licensing for bars. âÄúThe liquor industry is probably the most highly regulated industry already,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs unfair to the industry when much of the binge drinking is taking place in private homes âĦ not at licensed establishments where it is illegal to over serve.âÄù Robyn Hjermstad, a server at the Dinkytowner, said the recommendations are unrealistic and would be hard to enforce. âÄúJust as easy as a bar can have a happy hour, they can have a special on beers or decrease their prices,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs not going to prevent people from binge drinking if they really want to.âÄù Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill in Dinkytown said education about binge drinking would be a more effective tool than seeking to change city ordinances. Kayla Koenen, a first-year chemistry student, said she doesnâÄôt think restricting happy hour and drink specials in bars will be effective to address binge drinking. âÄúPeople that binge drink are usually underage, and they are doing it in their dorm rooms,âÄù she said.