It’s Saturday night, and the air is vibrating with excitement as elbows rub and college sweethearts meet, bartenders tell jokes and students experience the city. A lively weekend nightlife is the staple of any college town, and DeKalb was on the cusp of inviting that atmosphere until City Council members and businesses snuffed out the small spark of hope trying to light the town.
A proposed ordinance to lower the legal bar-entry age hit the council’s floor Jan. 13, but at the council’s Feb. 24 meeting the ordinance received little to no support, effectively nixing the effort. If passed, the ordinance would have allowed 19- and 20-year-old students access to bars.
Preventing this ordinance from passing only reinforces NIU’s infamous ‘suitcase school’ label.
The council was persuaded when businesses said they did not support the ordinance because of extra expenses they would acquire from having to make sure admitted 19- and 20-year olds were not drinking alcohol. City Manager Bill Nicklas said the city staff would not support the consideration for the same reason: a lack of resources.
Listen, everything in today’s world is about money, and yes, I can believe the businesses and city are strapped for cash and resources to prevent underage drinking. However, at age 19 I certainly would have stayed on campus during weekends more often had I been able to go out with older friends. I also would have spent more money.
Since I’ve turned 21, I’ve spent a considerably larger amount of time and money at local businesses, and I enjoy it. The problem is, I couldn’t enjoy it until my last year as a college student, effectively making me useless to the city’s economy for the first three years I lived here.
The council isn’t to blame though.
First Ward Alderperson Carolyn Morris and Seventh Ward Alderperson Anthony Faivre were actually the ones that proposed the ordinance, and Mayor Jerry Smith pointed out something crucial during the meeting at which the ordinance lost support: there were no 19- and 20-year-olds in attendance to support the bill.
It seems to me students blame the city for not welcoming a ‘college-town environment,’ but in this case, students neglected to advocate for themselves. Having been swayed to snuff the proposed ordinance, it is reasonable to assume that had students shown up to support its passing, the council may have put more effort into working with businesses to make it happen.
Morris proposed an altered plan to allow separate guest or banquet areas in local bars for community groups with members who are underage, which Nicklas said would be tabled until a later meeting. Having blown the opportunity to support the first ordinance, students, particularly those who are 19 and 20, should advocate for the altered suggestion. Otherwise, they should stop complaining about the fire they let burn out.