The Electric Commentary

Thursday, August 26, 2004

P.A.C.E. is at it again.

For those readers that are not familiar with Madison, Wisconsin, I would first like to bring you all up to date on P.A.C.E., drink specials and the law. UW has a bit of a reputation for being a party school. For some reason this does not sit well with the UW administration or local government. It's strange because we also have a reputation for being an excellent University. Nevertheless, this has created an ongoing battle between totalitarian government and community heads versus very smart students that really like to drink.

The first step in this battle began with the creation of a group called Policy Alternatives Community Education or P.A.C.E. They were also given a sizable government grant. The goal of P.A.C.E. was to force students to spend more money. Actually, their goal was to cut down on binge drinking by targeting all bar patrons.

P.A.C.E. somehow persuaded nearly all of Madison's downtown bars to participate in a voluntary drink special ban to see if it cut down on incidents of drunk driving, disorderly conduct, fights and the like. If it "worked" they would presumably use their data to help convince lawmakers to sign the bill into law.

Meanwhile, the Memorial Union, a very popular bar that is funded by the University and that has never had drink specials, decided to extend its closing time to 2am. Did they have something to gain by the higher prices at competing bars? I think so.

The voluntary ban didn't work. The results showed that drunk driving, disorderly conduct, fights and the like went up.

But that wasn't the end of it. If you have a brain you've probably figured out what happened next. The bars agreed to raise their prices, as competition was no longer a concern for them. When Sue Crowley, the Project Director of P.A.C.E., was asked how she felt about the bar owners not being particularly angry with P.A.C.E. because they're making more money now, Ms. Crowley replied "I know that," and then went on to state that one of the overriding objectives of P.A.C.E.'s project was to "price [students] out of over-consumption."

Can you say "price-fixing"? Can you say "law suit"? That's right, when you try to screw smart kids that like to party out of reasonably priced drinks by breaking the law, you're going to get sued.

A law firm from Minnesota filed a class action suit against P.A.C.E., the 23 bars that participated, and the University on behalf of UW students.

So did the government and community heads learn anything from this little endeavor? Apparently not. There is still a push for a nighttime drink special ban on the part of the Alcohol License Review Sub-committee. One bar owner had this to say: "You have an enforcement policy. The city attorney can go after a bar that over serves or serves drunks. There's all kinds of laws on the books that will address these problems."

Indeed.

1 Comments:

  • Typical over reaction of trying to solve a social issue with regulation. As a person who went through engineering school with a slide rule, this is an old subject. Youth unbridled. Alcohol is a choice and youth experiment. Woodstock was a great experiment.

    By Blogger Indian, at 8:05 PM  

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