So far this year, 31 of 34 hospitality vendors that serve or sell alcohol downtown have agreed to halt alcohol sales on State Patty’s Day Saturday, Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims said via email Tuesday.
This includes bottle shops, bars and restaurants.
“One or perhaps two vendors continue to discuss the possibility,” Sims said. “Spats is the only vendor I know that certainly will serve alcohol, but will do so with meals.”
Sims said the two establishments that have yet to decide aren't “thought of as bars,” and instead are more similar to a restaurant, like Spats, 142 E. College Ave.
In addition to the downtown locations, Whiskers, which is in the Nittany Lion Inn, 200 W. Park Ave. , will close, he said.
Levels, 420 E. College Ave., will be closed for State Patty’s Day this year, Levels Nightclub Manager Tim Crockett said.
Crocket said the nightclub made the choice to close more than a month ago, prior to receiving the letter from Sims and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine , offering monetary compensation.
Sims and Fountaine sent a letter last week to downtown tavern and bottle shop owners, outlining a four-tier compensation system based on occupancy.
Last year, the 34 establishments that closed received payment of $5,000 each.
But this year, businesses with occupancies of 350 people or more were offered $7,500; those with occupancies of 250 to 349 people were offered $6,000; those with occupancies of 100 to 249 were offered $5,000; and those with occupancies of less than 100 were offered $2,500.
“The funds will come largely from university parking fine revenues, with a possible small contribution from the Campus-Community Partnership on Dangerous Drinking, ” Sims said.
Fountaine said the money is not coming from the borough and is coming solely from the university.
Crockett said Levels has an occupancy of 520 and will receive the highest level of compensation.
“[Closing for] one day is not going to hurt anybody. It’s just one day a year and the compensation package is more than fair,” Crockett said. “Something has to be done and this seems like it’s working.”
He said they’re not for or against the monetary compensation, because they made their decision before the offer was on the table.
Last year, Levels was open because it already had a sold-out event scheduled, Crockett said. And while establishments that had pre-scheduled events were allowed to remain open and even serve alcohol, Crockett said Levels did not serve or sell any during that night.
Café 210 West, 210 W. College Ave., will also be closed this Saturday, Co-Owner J.R. Mangan said the owners “struggled” with the decision to close, but ultimately felt pressure from the community.
“I think it’s a tough call because Saturdays are so up and down,” he said. “I’d prefer to be open, that’s my opinion.”
Café 210 West will also receive the highest level of compensation, Mangan said.
He said he’s torn because after THON raised more than $13.3 million this past weekend to help fight pediatric cancer, he knows this weekend was a way for students to have fun and lead into spring break. But Mangan said he also understands a lot of problems are coming from students who come up for the student-created holiday.
Mangan said there’s a part of him who thinks it’s unfortunate that bars won’t be open because at least in an establishment, there are restrictions to keep kids from drinking too much.
“It’s a shame we have to close,” he said.
He also said that it was not the bars who created this problem, but rather it started because of backlash from students when the university scheduled spring break over St. Patrick’s Day.
The university has promised this is the last year establishments will be paid to close, he said, and Mangan hopes Penn State keeps its promise of trying to create a different event to replace State Patty’s Day.
“We commit to working with downtown businesses and others to promote a winter festival to replace State Patty’s Day once this year’s event is past. Our ambition all along has been to eliminate State Patty’s Day,” Sims and Fountaine said in the letter sent to downtown establishments last week.
State College saw a decrease in crime last year, with 21 percent fewer calls and 39 percent fewer arrests and citations. Police saw 59 total incidents, 35 arrests and 46 filed charges.
This year, in addition to bars closing, the Interfraternity Council banned alcoholic events in fraternity houses on both Friday and Saturday and the Panhellenic Council implemented a no-guest rule for sorority dorms throughout the weekend.
The State Patty’s Day Task force has been meeting once a week since Jan. 15 to discuss how to better control the student-created holiday. The task force will meet again today.
While some students may be unhappy about the bar closures this weekend, others say they were not looking forward to State Patty’s Day.
Allison Zeeger said she thinks its fine the university is paying establishments and that the halt of alcohol sales will help keep outsiders away from State College. She said she doesn’t think it will stop students from partying.
“Just because the bars are closed, [students won’t stop],” Zeeger (senior-sociology) said. “It’ll just lead to more apartment parties.”
She said it’s a good idea for the university and town to try to create an event to replace the student-created holiday, but thinks it will have to be something big to push it out.
“It’d have to be something pretty awesome to distract people from State Patty’s Day,” she said.
Jennifer Zangrilli, Tavern Association president and director of operations at Dante’s Inc. , and a representative from Hotel State College could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.
Emily Chappell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyChappell13.