Originally created 02/15/05

UGA president's speech upsets bar owners



ATHENS, Ga. - Local bar owners and Athens-Clarke County officials say there is little more they can do to keep University of Georgia students from drinking.

UGA officials started a public campaign and new policies aimed at keeping students' alcohol consumption from interfering with studies after President Michael Adams criticized students' drinking habits last month. No matter what happens at the university, however, Athens-Clarke County police will continue to enforce drinking laws the same way they always have, said Lt. Gary Epps, who works in the downtown police station.

"It's not going to affect us," Lt. Epps said.

Dr. Adams, in his State of the University speech, called for students to drink less, especially on weeknights.

He specifically attacked parties thrown during the school week, but his comments also rubbed some bar owners the wrong way.

Dr. Adams' contention that many students drink heavily during the week is not true, said Chris Springfield, who owns The Firehouse, a local bar. Thursdays can be busy, he said, but not nearly as busy as Friday and Saturday nights.

Police are seeing more intoxicated students on the streets early in the week, however, according to Lt. Epps.

"You always plan on weekends being the big nights, but there seems to be bigger crowds on Monday and Tuesday nights than there used to be," Lt. Epps said.

The crowds are drawn, at least in part, by the drink specials many downtown bars offer on weeknights, Lt. Epps said.

The bars that offer specials are competing with one another for students who already decided to go out, not trying to pull students away from their studies, Mr. Springfield said.

"We're not telling people to blow off your schoolwork and get drunk," he said. "We're saying, if you go out, come here."

But Dr. Adams was not attacking downtown bars when he said some students party too much, said Pat Allen, UGA's director of community relations.

"There will be some who interpret that as he wants to close down all the downtown bars, or doesn't want people to go downtown except on weekends," Mr. Allen said at a recent Athens Downtown Development Authority meeting.

But "it's not an attack on downtown," he said.

Dr. Adams' speech led to a UGA policy that will inform parents when students repeatedly violate campus alcohol or drug policies. Under most circumstances, though, citations given to students in Athens will not be reported to the university or to parents.