Northern Illinois students press for underage access to bars

DeKALB, Ill. (AP) — Students at Northern Illinois University are pressing for 20-year-olds to be allowed inside taverns in DeKalb and are preparing to make their case to the college town’s skeptical mayor.

The NIU student association wants the entry age at DeKalb taverns to be dropped from 21 years old to 20, though state law forbids underage visitors of taverns from consuming or buying alcoholic beverages, the (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1EyzQKA ) reported.

The catalyst for the push is to incorporate more students into the university’s social life, said Ben Donovan, the student group’s governmental affairs director.

“We wish nothing more than for honest, open conversation with the city regarding this issue,” Donovan said during a recent DeKalb City Council meeting. “Thus far, the issue has been clouded by judgments, misunderstandings and assumptions not based on data, but rather emotions and opinions.”

The student group is gathering data from Champaign, Carbondale and other Illinois university cities where underage patrons are allowed inside bars. NIU’s Student Association Senate recently signed off on a resolution supporting the research, Donovan said.

DeKalb’s mayor, John Rey, said he’s willing to meet with students to discuss their research.

However, “I’m concerned, at first blush, that it really needs careful analysis,” he said.

Terry Horstman, spokesman for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, said college communities create unique challenges for enforcing the drinking age because of the disproportionate number of 18- to 20-year-old residents.

“Lowering the bar-entry age makes enforcement more difficult and also increases the liability on bar owners, two things the ILCC works to reduce,” Horstman said. “We believe that lowering the bar-entry age only increases the underage drinking problem that is already prevalent on college campuses.”

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Information from: The Daily Chronicle

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