Jan 182005
Authors: J.J. Babb

Puffs of warm air billowed out of mouths, and the previously melted snow froze back into ice. But the bitterness of the 21-degree night did not stop a line from forming outside Sullivan's Tavern on a Thursday in mid-December.

Sullivan's, 820 City Park Ave., hosts two hours of four-for-one drinks on Thursday evenings.

Lincoln Young, a senior graphic design major, occasionally takes advantage of Sullivan's deal. Young goes out an average of three nights a week and drinks approximately 10 drinks on each of these nights. Because of drink specials he is able to spend only $20 to $30 a night.

"I wouldn't be able to afford it," he said about a life without drink specials. "(Drink specials are) cheap and easy to get and delicious."

On the other side of campus Washington's Bar and Grill, 132 Laporte Ave., provides free drinks for the "ladies" and a free keg for men with a $4 cover charge from 9 to 10 p.m. During this hour Washington's sees approximately 100 to 150 costumers.

"If we can get them in here earlier we can keep them around all night," said Aaron Nagell, co-general manager of Washington's.

During this hour Washington's has two bartenders on duty and only serves one drink per person at a time, Nagell said.

"It's not excessive; we're not trying to get people hammered," Nagell said.

Washington's has been hosting "college night" on Thursdays for about five years and sees almost double the attendance from an average Friday or Saturday night, Nagell said. This means about 700 to 900 people take advantage of each Thursday night at Washington's.

During the evening, Washington's employees encourage patrons not to drink and drive and for them to ask a bartender to call a cab if they need a ride home. Employees also walk around the bar and encourage people to be safe or slow down their alcohol consumption, Nagell said.

Along with about 30 local bars, Washington's has signed a code of ethics to promote responsible drinking.

"We take our jobs really seriously," Nagell said. "The drink specials may sound as if we're trying to get people to binge drink but that's not it at all."

Seven students have died in Colorado this school year following alcohol-related incidents. Only one of these students, Joseph Michael Osborne of Steamboat Springs, was drinking at a bar prior to his death. According to articles by the Summit Daily News, drink specials have not been cited as a cause.

Binge drinking, defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism National Advisory Council, is at least five drinks in a row for men and four for women. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines a drink as a 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. 80-proof distilled liquor.

Pam McCracken, director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Education at Hartshorn Health Service, does not use the term binge drinking. She defines high-risk drinking as 14 drinks a week for a male and seven drinks a week for a female, or anytime someone drinks too much too fast.

Although she recognizes some students may have drinking problems, not all of them do.

According to the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness study, CSU is within the norm for college campuses, with approximately 20 to 22 percent of students abstaining from alcohol consumption and about the same number of students drinking heavily. These heavy drinkers "party" more than three times a week, McCracken said. The rest of the students, in the middle, are moderate and responsible drinkers, she said.

A Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor assessment by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that 18.6 percent of Larimer County residents participated in binge drinking, while 6.4 percent drank heavily in 2002. This study describes heavy drinking as anything exceeding two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for females in the past 30 days.

Accessibility of alcohol combined with the freedom many students feel in college may add to excessive drinking, McCracken said.

McCracken also said drink specials may encourage excessive drinking, but she does not know for sure.

"What I know is that students will often say they pick the establishment due to cheap drinks," McCracken said. "They may use those establishments (with drink specials) to pre-party."

Jenn Smith, a senior apparel and merchandizing major, does not pre-party at the bars with drink specials; she pre-parties before she goes out. On average Smith drinks three to four drinks when she goes out and spends approximately $10 on average, but she said that as a woman she often gets free drinks.

Smith particularly enjoys the Steak-Out Saloon, 152 W. Mountain Ave., on any night because of its drink specials and said she wouldn't drink as much at bars if she had to spend more.

"If it was like $5 a drink instead of $2.50 I would probably drink more at home," Smith said.

The average student has no problem spending money on alcohol, though.

Each year, college students spend approximately $5.5 billion on alcohol-more than on soft drinks, milk, juice, tea, coffee and books combined, according to a study by Drug Strategies in 1999.

David Short, executive director of the city's Downtown Business Association, said drink specials at bars are typical across the industry.

"It's what they have to do to stay competitive," Short said.

The DBA wants all of its businesses to be successful and realizes many of the downtown businesses and bars are trying to encourage students into their establishments. One method is drink specials.

Short does not know if drink specials encourage excessive drinking but believes the issue of safety is first and foremost. If drink specials begin to cause safety troubles, they become a problem for the DBA.

"Whether the drinks are expensive or not, it's up to them (the patrons) to control how they do it and up to the bars as well," Short said. "No matter the price, the bars are responsible for not serving overly intoxicated people."

Chris Moore, a senior construction management major, doesn't believe drink specials increase drinking at all.

"It just makes it easier and cheaper," he said.

Nagell sees it this way also.

"I think it's a way to get some of these college students who don't have a lot of money to get out and have a good time," he said.

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