College Night banned from Chippewa
City official says bar owners are to blame
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The Chippewa Entertainment District lost $20,000 last Thursday.
The bar owners blame the local government and the local government blames the bar owners.
As of Oct. 2, College Night was canceled.
The provision, which allowed people 18 and up to attend bars and nightclubs on Thursday nights, was not renewed by the Ellicott District Common Council. Every night after 10 p.m., Chippewa-area partygoers must be 21 and older.
On Tuesday, bar owners/employees, patrons and college students protested outside Buffalo City Hall, calling the policy “economically irresponsible” of local government officials.
But Darius G. Pridgen, Ellicott District Common Council member, said he doesn’t take ownership of the issue. He said when the Council created College Night, it came with a condition that it could only continue if the Chippewa Entertainment District renewed the provision by Oct. 2. That never happened.
Bar owners and patrons think the change will harm Buffalo's economy.
“I feel like our politicians don’t understand yet that Buffalo is a college town,” said Colin Miller, a freshman digital media studies major. “Students are pumping their money into areas like Chippewa.”
Peter Altholz, co-owner of Bayou, said it is not just bar owners who are losing money; bartenders and security guards will lose shifts. Employees of businesses surrounding the bars, like Mighty Taco – which recently opened – will also lose business.
Altholz pointed out that because fewer college students will go downtown, restaurants will close earlier. He’s worried about the future of consumerism in Buffalo as a whole.
“All of those workers who take the money they earn and spend it on the local economy are going to vanish,” Atholz said.
As a Buffalo native, Miller wants to see the area thrive. But he “get[s] the feeling that the government just doesn’t want that to happen.”
Two weeks after College Night began, Pridgen heard from one bar owner who said he was going to start catering to an older crowd and would not continue hosting the event after October.
Pridgen said he did not hear from another club owner until the deadline had passed.
Now his phone constantly rings with calls from people in favor of and against the new policy.
“I don’t have a [say] on it,” Pridgen said. “We would need to create new legislation to bring College Night back, and it would really depend on how long it takes people to talk and get on one page.”
Early this year, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown wanted to veto co-mingling – interaction between the under-age and of-age crowds – entirely.
“We had homicides, stabbings and underage drinking,” Pridgen said. “It was a mess.”
The city didn’t want to put students in danger, but it didn’t have the resources to staff extra police officers.
College Night was created in March as a compromise between Brown, Pridgen and the club owners.
According to the bar owners and students, the issue is not about underage drinking. It’s about the kids having a place to entertain themselves.
“Every time I come to Chippewa, I don’t plan on drinking there,” Miller said. “They don’t allow it.”
Without the bars and nightclubs, people under 21 have very few nightlife options. Many think they will turn to Main Street and local house parties.
Adam Medwetsky, a graduate student in business administration, who is of legal age, will no longer have a place to go out with his younger friends. He pointed out the change doesn’t only affect those who are underage.
Pridgen feels it’s safer if those under and over 21 are not congregated in one strip of bars in a small section of the city.
Not everyone agrees.
“Kids are going to find other ways to stay entertained, and they’re probably not going to be the smartest ways,” Miller said. “The chances of them driving home [drunk] from a house party are much more likely than them driving home from Chippewa. I think that’s a problem.”