Originally created 08/22/06

Coupons for bars causing uproar



WINDER, Ga. - Rebecca Williams' concerns about her college-age daughter's drinking have ebbed now that the University of Georgia sophomore moved back home to Winder.

The shock of seeing a slew of alcohol specials and bail bond ads in a coupon book her underage daughter brought home with a pile of textbooks renewed her frustration, however.

"I was disturbed," she said. "I was driving to work today, and I just got more and more furious."

Ms. Williams' daughter, Susan Beitzell, said she got the free coupon book, The Campus $pecial, along with texts she bought at the Off Campus Bookstore on Baxter Street.

The book includes discount coupons and ads for alcohol specials such as $1 drinks at Flanagan's, a free order of nachos with the purchase of a pitcher of beer at Athens Steam Co. Pub and 20 percent off at Double "O" Bonding, a bail bond company.

"This is really discouraging ... to see students bombarded in the first week of class," said Pat Daugherty, UGA's assistant vice president for student services, referring also to a number of articles last week in The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper, that she said promoted irresponsible and underage drinking.

"A lot of people have been working together very hard to make an impact," said Dr. Daugherty, who heads the Campus/Community Alcohol Coalition. "This makes it even more of a challenge to change the perception that all there is to do in Athens is to drink."

When members of the coalition - a 2-year-old group that has been developing strategies to counteract the culture of alcohol abuse in Athens - notice irresponsible advertising, they call the business and usually get a favorable response, Dr. Daugherty said.

The content of the coupon books did not go over well with a bookstore owner, who said he won't let it happen again.

"It's a big deal to me," said Charles Fuller, the owner of Off Campus Bookstore and East Campus Bookstore.

When advertising representatives asked whether he would distribute coupon books at his stores, he agreed on the condition that alcohol ads would be excluded, Mr. Fuller said.

"I told them no bars," he said. "I explained to them that this was not something to promote."

The company included them anyway, and Mr. Fuller said he was obliged to hand them out because of the contract he signed.

"Next year, if we do it, I guarantee they won't have them in there," he said.

A voice recording at the Campus $pecial's 800 number greets callers with a message that the service is "where businesses and students come together."

A woman at the advertising company said that no one was available to speak about the coupon book.