Whitewater bans all-you-can-drink specials

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Kayla Bunge
Friday, May 7, 2010
— Mark Wokasch isn’t too worried about losing customers at his downtown bar.

Fat Jack’s, 146 W. Main St., has offered two all-you-can-drink specials and other cheap-drink promotions for a while.

But the bar and a few others in the city with similar specials will have to come up with a new way to bring in business by the end of the month.

The Whitewater City Council this week voted 4-3 to ban all-you-can-drink specials at licensed establishments.

City Clerk Michele Smith said the ban would take effect by the end of May—as soon as the council approves a second reading of the ordinance and as soon as the ordinance is published.

Wokasch said downtown bar owners likely won’t know the real effects of the ban for a few months because students are heading home for the summer and will return to school and the bars in the fall.

“I’m not too worried,” he said. “But it’s going to take time to really see what’s going to happen.”

Wokasch this week stopped offering his specials, which included $7 all-you-can-drink rail mixers and domestic tap beers on Wednesday nights and $5 all-you-can-drink rail mixers on Thursday nights, so students could get used to the ban on such promotions.

“I was talking to some of them. They all seemed kind of worried that it actually went through,” he said.

The city council considered the ban after some downtown bar owners expressed concerns about all-you-can-drink specials.

Dave Bergman, owner of the Brass Rail, 130 W. Main St., said bars that offer such specials are being irresponsible and putting the community at risk.

“We’re supposed to be responsible servers,” he said. “But when you have $5 all-you-can-drink, and people get so intoxicated and possibly go out and kill themselves or somebody else (in an accident), that’s not responsible. I don’t believe in that.”

Bergman said he often has to deal with patrons who stumble into the bar after taking advantage of a cheap drink special at another bar. He said drunken patrons often vomit all over the bathrooms, break or vandalize property and cause problems for bartenders.

“It’s a nuisance,” he said.

Council member Lynn Binnie said such specials are a public safety hazard.

“There’s clear evidence that shows that all-you-can-drink specials and similar promotions tend to lead to overindulgence in alcohol, and that can result in public safety issues such as injuries and deaths from drunken driving … and other crimes.”

Council member Jim Olsen said it might help curb binge drinking in the city.

“If we can stop the over-consumption of alcohol by not having all-you-can-drink specials, then I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It might help. I’m not saying it’s going to stop (binge drinking), but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Binnie agreed.

“I think there certainly are ways (alcohol) license holders could skirt this very basic ordinance,” he said. “But I think it at least makes a statement that we are concerned about excessive indulgence.”

Council member Max Taylor, who is graduating from UW-Whitewater this month and whose district is comprised almost entirely of fellow students, said the new rules unfairly target the college crowd.

“Most of these specials don’t start until later at night,” he said. “Students are the ones who go to the bars for these specials. The after-work crowd isn’t going out for them.”

Taylor also said the ban doesn’t solve the problem of binge drinking.

“Bars still can their lower prices on drinks,” he said. “And students probably will go to the liquor store and stock up for a house party to drink on the cheap.

“I really don’t think it’s going to slow down drinking.”

Wokasch of Fat Jack’s agreed.

“Why have it be illegal to do it in a regulated area such as a bar or restaurant … and not have it be the same way house parties?” he asked.

“‘All-you-can-drink’ isn’t really what it means. It’s all we will serve you. It’s not like we’re pouring beer and booze down people’s throats. It’s your choice to ask for another …”

Last updated: 1:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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