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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chadron Rejects Madison Pro-Booze Thinking, Keeps 1 a.m. Closing Time

Over a twelve-month period, good college town Madison saw significant expansions in the availability of alcohol:
  1. Grocer Dan Roemen shut down Mr. Movies to make room for more liquor sales space, a move not viewed favorably by local readers.
  2. The Madison City Commission voted to permit alcohol consumption in city parks.
  3. The Madison City Commission extended closing time for bars from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
On that last note, Madison bar owners argued that their boozy patrons were hopping in their cars at the 1 a.m. closing time and driving to Wentworth, Nunda, and other locations with later-closing bars. It's not safe to send all those paying customers—er, neighbors—out on the highway at that hour!

The same arguments were lodged before the Chadron City Council last month as it considered an identical measure. Bar owner Darin Garman warned that Crawford, Hay Springs, and Alliance would make the change and draw Chadron's late-night drinkers to the highways.

Yet the Chadron City Council . Why did this Nebraska college town say no to later booze?

"Eighty to 85 percent of the students we see having problems, alcohol is almost always a factor," Randy Rhine, [Chadron State University] vice president for enrollment said during discussion of the proposal to add an hour to the time bars are allowed to remain open. "Alcohol is probably the number one substance abused on our campus."

"I can't see it benefiting anyone to be out that much later ...with that much alcohol in your system," said Dr. Kristi Johnson. "I don't understand what it's going to gain for our community."

...[A]dding an hour to the hours of bar service will "increase all the risk factors," for alcohol abuse, said CSC nurse Ann Dockwiler. Every year the college has about a dozen incidents involving taking a student from a residence hall to the emergency room because of an alcohol overdose, she said, and many more cases which aren't serious enough to require an ER visit, but still have to be monitored by staff members. "It's a huge issue for us," Dockwiler said.

..."There seems to be a huge risk, and benefit to a very few," noted council member Steve Duncan.

"I'm of the opinion that nothing really good happens after midnight," said council member John Gamby.

"I think 1 a.m. is long enough," said council member Rob Harvey [George Ledbetter, "City Nixes 2 a.m. Closing, Retains Dog Licensing Rule," Chadron Record, 2010.08.23].

Chadron is a town about our size. They have lots of college students, just like Madison. And, at peril of stereotyping, one might argue that, a little more isolated out on the high western plains, folks there might have a little more excuse to seek solace in a stiff drink than us Madisonites on the lush green side of the 100th meridian.

Yet Chadron says whoa at 1 a.m., and Madison doesn't. Go figure.
Bonus What-If: Consider that if Madison hadn't extended its closing time, and if the local bars had sent everyone home at 1 a.m. on Labor Day Weekend, then by the time fireman Scott Johnson responded to that fire call and then blew into the breathalyzer around 3 a.m., the alcohol might have settled out of his system enough not to warrant a DUI arrest.


  1. Oh, and let's not forget that now one of our major pharmacies - Lewis Drug - is selling liquor out the wazoo. But all of this is typical: I can't tell you the number of times I heard parents griping because their children had actually been arrested for underaged drinking. And the idea that they might have to pay a fine was appalling - after all, underage drinking is just good fun and if the police and the deputies would just drop the little drunks off at home (like they used to in the good old days) instead of taking them to jail, everything would be fine. Look, folks, in case you don't know it, our beloved little town of Madison is known pretty much all over Eastern SD as a heavy drinking town, and it's NOT a compliment.

  2. Eve, I am just as alarmed as you are at how defensive, perhaps even proud, Madisonians sometimes sound about that big-booze reputation. The discussion of the fireman's DUI has revealed some truly unhealthy attitudes about alcohol that, unfortunately, are being passed on to our kids.


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