Bar crowds prompt health district, city to consider stricter rules


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — City and public health leaders are considering new limits for campus bars. They already can’t let people under 21 inside after 9 p.m., but soon they could require that restriction all day.

If you drove through Campustown Thursday night, you probably noticed a long line of people waiting to get into Joe’s Brewery.

“It looks like it was super crowded during the day,” said student Rose Vowak. A compliance officer from public health was called out to check on it. They asked some people to leave and got the crowds under control, but now they’re considering a new rule: only letting people 21 and over into Campustown bars at all times.

“I think that’s pretty fair, for at least right now,” said student Zachary Oh.

The rule allowing people under 21 in only until 9 p.m. was made back in July to cut back on crowds, but some students say underage kids are just going at different times.

“From what I’ve heard from students that work at the bars, they’re very crowded before 9,” said Nowak. She says she talked to her friends about the issue, and they agree it’s concerning.

“There’s always students visiting from like other schools or other cities because they can enter bars under 21 here, so we believe that could also be a big factor in an increase in cases because those students aren’t getting tested twice a week like we are.”

Senior Michael Hood agrees that stricter rules could help, though he understands it may be frustrating for the younger students.

“I feel like it’s definitely gonna bum a lot of people out, but as a student and somebody that doesn’t want to get sent home, it’s definitely comforting that they’re thinking about implementing something that’s gonna stop people form gathering and possibly ruining the semester,” he said.

We reached out to Campustown bars about this new rule. Most of them didn’t have a comment.

However, KAM’s and Red Lion owner Scott Cochrane said he believes a new rule will not fix the problem. He feels the real problem is students holding house and apartment parties. He added that they are doing everything they can to follow existing public health guidelines.

Joe’s Brewery’s owner responded with the following:

The virus is the enemy here and the virus does not care what the drinking age is. House parties are clearly the major problem with spreading the virus, not bars. The only reason to further regulate bars is that it is hard to regulate parties. Raising the entry age will not solve the problem, in fact it will make the problem worse. We hope to communicate that further during the meeting.

We have a world class scientific community, a testing program that is the best in the world, and an excellent model for making decisions. The data should drive our decisions, not pre-covid biases and knee jerk assumptions.

Joe’s Brewery spokesperson

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