Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Whitewater Common Council Curbs All-You-Can-Drink Specials

The Whitewater Common Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to pass an ordinance prohibiting bars from offering all-you-can-drink specials in the hope of decreasing binge drinking.

District two representative Max Taylor spoke strongly against passing the ordinance. Taylor felt passing it would do little to discourage binge drinking. He said the all-you-can-drink specials actually benefit the economy.

“These specials actually get people to come out to the bars,” Taylor said. “When you’re low on cash it’s nice to be able to go down to the bar and spend $5 and have a few drinks, as opposed to going out with that same $5 without the specials and having one, maybe two drinks. They encourage people to stick around the downtown. It is a very, very vibrant place [late at night]. After going to the bars, a lot of people go to patronize restaurants that decide to stay open that late, such as Rosa’s or the Day ‘N Nite CafĂ©.

Taylor also felt that prohibiting the specials would encourage individuals to attend unregulated house parties and put more strain on the police to check on the bars. He felt it was the responsibility of the bar owners to make sure they don’t overserve patrons.

“Even if you have an all-you-can-drink special, if a bartender sees that you are clearly intoxicated and falling over yourself, they should stop serving you, even if you did pay your $5 fee,” Taylor said. “If they don’t stop serving you, that is when our police department should step in and regulate.”

Patrick Singer, the common council president, also voted in favor of keeping all-you-can-drink specials. Singer, who is also on the alcohol licensing committee, did not think they [the common council] were qualified to set prices. Singer said there are only four places in Whitewater that offer the all-you-can-drink specials. They include The College Pub, Fat Jack’s, the Hawks Nest Bar & Grill and the Downstairs Sports Bar & Grill.

“This was brought up by one licensed owner who does not offer specials,” Singer said. “This was never brought up as something to help binge drinking. It seems like it was brought up by one licensed holder to level the playing field. It sounded like this was a solution in search of a problem, or a bar owner trying to use us to level the playing field against his competition, which I don’t think we should have any business in.”

District four representative Lynn Binnie spoke strongly in favor of prohibiting the all-you-can-drink specials.

“Drunken driving is a problem in this state,” Binnie said. “It causes massive injuries and deaths day after day after day in this state. We have our fair share of drunk driving arrests in this community. Alcohol levels are considerably higher after leaving an establishment where there is an all-you-can-drink special.”

Whitewater Police Chief Jim Coan echoed Binnie’s concerns. If passed, Coan said they would enforce the ordinance prohibiting all-you-can-drink specials by word of mouth. He felt the ordinance would be symbolic and send a message to people that binge drinking is wrong.

Fat Jack’s owner Mark Wokasch, and Pumper’s and Mitchell’s Bar & Grill employee Curt Patrick expressed their dissatisfaction concerning the passing of the ordinance. Patrick said he goes to the bars almost every Wednesday, which is his only night off. Patrick felt prohibiting the specials would not affect how much people consume because it is cheaper to buy individual drinks than pay the cover charge.”

“The ones who go out on Wednesdays nights are responsible,” Patrick said. “I can assure you that it is Thursday, Friday and Saturday [that people are overly intoxicated]. Getting rid of all-you-can-drink specials would not solve anything. It would only encourage them to drink more.”

Wokasch said he had a problem with the city trying to take more than they were qualified to do. He felt they should have first looked at other state legislatures to see what is needed to effectively curb binge drinking. He also said they very rarely have to cut someone off on a Wednesday, or even Thursday, night.

“We keep a better eye on how much a particular person is drinking,” Wokasch said. “They have an attitude and a way of asking for their next drink that tips us off.”
Wokasch said the signs they look for include being rude to bartenders or customers, having difficulty standing and slurred speech.

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