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Archive for Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Price wars in Lincoln bars still a problem to be solved

A sign hangs inside one Downtown Lincoln bar in this file photo from March. Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson Thursday halted the implementation of a policy that would raise prices on alcohol.

A sign hangs inside one Downtown Lincoln bar in this file photo from March. Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson Thursday halted the implementation of a policy that would raise prices on alcohol.

March 10, 2010

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— There’s a price war going on along O Street, allowing students to get smashed for just 10 bucks a night.

Bars are selling quarter beer draws, 50-cent longnecks and $1 liquor shots, as they battle one another for the student dollar.

It’s the latest issue the Lincoln community has taken on in its widespread, environmental approach to curbing high-risk drinking.

“High-risk marketing’s a real problem, when you’re kind of encouraging your customers to drink a lot of alcohol and drink it quickly,” said Tom Casady, the city’s police chief.

On a recent Friday night at Main Street Cafe on O Street, most of the hundreds of bar patrons inside were “double fisting,” each holding two plastic cups full of booze in their hands. The bar offers deep discounts from 8 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re one of the cheapest bars in town,” said Tyler Mohr, bar owner.

The city’s internal liquor committee, made up of three city council members and other community stakeholders, has been putting pressure on certain bars to quit offering ridiculous discounts. The city’s also called monthly meetings with bar owners to talk about overcoming the ongoing price war. Some have caught on and started to raise their prices.

“That’s a win-win situation for everybody, because the bars end up doing better financially and the people aren’t drinking as much, at least we hope, creating a dangerous environment downtown,” said John Spatz, a Lincoln city councilman who sits on the liquor committee.

The city’s police officers keep a visible presence on O Street, especially during the busiest bar hours, and they also spend a good deal of time reminding bar owners about the laws against serving alcohol to those who are already intoxicated.

Police officers patrol the bars randomly two or three times a week, walking through to make sure really drunken people aren’t being served even more booze. The bars that are can receive a tavern violation.

“If you’re engaged in a reckless marketing proactive and you’re not able to monitor your customer’s intake … you’re going to be held accountable,” Casady said.

Comments

whiskeysour 4 years, 6 months ago

The last quotation in the article makes no sense. . . just because prices are low does not mean that bars would be unable to avoid serving intoxicated customers.

I find it problematic that the city thinks it can dictate to private businesses what they should charge.

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manONmoon 4 years, 6 months ago

Wow I wish I lived in Lincoln. It doesn't matter what you charge, people are going to get smashed either way.

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Graczyk 4 years, 6 months ago

Meanwhile, the people who know when to say when will have to pay more for their drinks. Doesn't sound like a win for everyone.

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Jonathan Kealing 4 years, 6 months ago

Hi Scott--

This is part of our series of stories about the successes and struggles that Lincoln, Neb., has experienced in attempting to address a serious underage and overindulgent drinking problem the community had. It's been pretty widely agreed that Lawrence and KU have a similar problem and several people have pointed to Lincoln as a model to take. So we went up there to find what they did right, and what they still need to do.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

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1029 4 years, 6 months ago

Sometimes people live in a place and they think that (a) their town is just like every other town, or (b) that every town across America is the same. Then when you read something like this, you realize that neither (a) nor (b) is true, but that most towns are different except for instances where two towns are exactly alike and have the exact same problems caused by the exact same variables--in this case, Lawrence and Lincoln. Two cities that are almost identical when you really think about it, having colleges and all.

I predict that the LJ-W is really going to clean house at the SNAs next year because of brilliant and informative features like this!

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wagonburner23 4 years, 6 months ago

They are just saying Lawrence is a better place than Lincoln. I bet rent is cheaper there though. They probably don't have hit and runs like we do.

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TomCasady 4 years, 6 months ago

whiskeysour:

I agree completely, however, if you engage in this kind of marketing, you are at greater risk for attracting problem drinkers who do not care one whit about the risk their behavior causes to your liquor license. Thus, you've got to be even more careful to avoid over-service. You need an adequate number of servers and staff to keep a close eye on that guy at the back table, you need a bouncer with some good skills to keep a drunk from ever getting inside, and so forth.

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