Spectator Editoral: Passing the buck

When Luke Homan became the eighth UW-La Crosse student since 1997 to drown in the Mississippi River after a night of drinking, people scrambled to point fingers. And many of those fingers pointed to local bars.

According to an article in the Nov. 30 Leader-Telegram, La Crosse’s Alcohol Oversight Committee is considering a proposal to ban late-night drink specials.

But binge drinking will happen regardless of the deals bars offer their customers, and such a proposal infringes on owners’ freedom in running their businesses. To solve the problem, drinkers need to take responsibility for their own safety.

It’s understandable that city officials feel they need to act. After all, the tragedy earned La Crosse a New York Times article calling the city a “hard-drinking college town” on Oct. 23. But placing the sole responsibility on the bars is a cop-out. The city could take action by building a fence or putting officers on patrol by the river, for example.

In Eau Claire earlier this year, city and university officials took a “bar walk” on Water Street to observe the drinking culture and to look for possible safety concerns. If La Crosse officials took such a step, they would probably emerge with similar findings – that while some hazards need to be addressed, most bar patrons are out to have a good time and to do it safely.

Ultimately, bar-goers need to keep their own safety in mind and to look out for the people they are drinking with. It’s important never to walk home alone and to make sure friends don’t wander off by themselves.

Bars do take measures to look out for the safety of their partons. According to the article, the La Crosse City/County Tavern League already trains bartenders in responsible serving.

But in the end, no matter what bars charge for their drinks, it’s up to the customers to know when enough is enough.