Sample Op-Ed #1: We All Pay the Tab for Cheap Drinks

Happy hours, ladies’ nights, all-you-can-drink specials. The appeal of cheap drinks is strong, particularly for college students. Without a doubt, dollar pitchers and giant margaritas provide low-cost entertainment for these young adults. But the reality is that we all pay the price for these discounts, and we as a community need to decide if that price has become too high.

Public Safety Costs

Deep discounts and promotions encourage people to drink to get drunk. And when people get drunk and out of control, that’s when we see increases in property damage, assaults, DUI’s, etc. In the fall of 2001, the University of Colorado compared drink special advertisements in their campus paper and crime statistics, and found that the day of the week with the most drink special ads – Thursday – was also the day with the highest number of alcohol crimes committed by students. While some may argue that people will drink just as much if the price is higher, economics and common sense say the opposite. Elimination of drink specials will help reduce the number of out-of-control, inebriated individuals on the street and behind the wheel.

Personal Safety Costs
What’s an even bigger lure for male college students than cheap drinks? Cheap drinks and sex. And that’s the promise of Ladies’ Night drink promotions: large numbers of women who have had a few drinks, and are perceived to be more responsive to sexual advances. Certainly, no one is forcing women to go to these promos; they are going because they think they will have a good time. However, their belief that they will be able to stay in control of whatever situation arises is naïve and ill-founded. In several studies, male college students admit to giving women alcohol to make them less resistant to sexual advances. In a separate college study, 29 percent of sexual assaults on female students involved a female victim who was incapacitated by alcohol. No matter how independent our friends and daughters seem, they are being used as bait in a dangerous game where they will never come out the winners.

Community Development Costs
Many drink specials price alcohol cheaper than bottled water. The retail cost of the drinks is often below the bar owners’ wholesale alcohol costs. That means the more people drink, the more money the bars lose. Many bar owners would like to get out of the habit of promotional drink specials, but feel that they won’t be able to compete if they’re the only ones who aren’t offering the specials. The economic effect is that bars experience increased owner turnover, as one owner goes broke and sells out and another takes his place. New owners find that to stay profitable, they need to act essentially as liquor barns, eliminating the amenities and maintenance that make them attractive and responsible members of the business community. By eliminating drink specials for all establishments, the general business climate will improve, not only for the bars themselves but for their other retail neighbors as well.

These are just a few ways that students and full-time residents alike, pay the price for drink specials. Other costs include the medical, health care and law enforcement costs that result from drink special binge drinking. There are also the social costs of having a downtown where families do not feel safe after eight or nine at night, because of the prevalence of drunkenness. It is time for us to stop paying the tab for alcohol problems in our community. Let’s seriously consider eliminating drink specials and promotions. It will make our community a safer and healthier place in which for us to live, and a more conducive environment for college students to learn.

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