Letter to Paul Zerby

I sent this letter to my councilman on Friday, 22. August, 2003. The only thing I wish I’d added was the comment that when the kids who want to break the law understand that I was drunk is not going to be accepted as an excuse, then we’ll see a change in behavior.

Dear Paul,

Regarding your proposed amendment of city ordinances for on-sale liquor licenses [4], I need to point out the following two facts:

- The felons convicted of arson and other property damage during last April’s hockey riots were mostly underage. I just double-checked in a MN Daily article[1]. None of those listed in the article were of legal drinking age.

- The people out during the riot were not coming from area bars, but rather from private parties, the celebration on-campus, or had driven into the area just for the riot. In contrast, the great majority of bar patrons stayed in the bars in order to avoid getting tear-gassed by the police. [2]

I fail to understand how restricting bars is going to have any effect whatsoever on the behavior of underage hooligans who want to tear up a part of town. Perhaps restricting access to alcohol in liquor stores would make an impact, but when there are house-parties with kegs and people driving in from the suburbs to riot, I don’t see how a SE Minneapolis restriction on bars could have any effect.

The problem isn’t bars. The problem is people who use something like the Gopher’s win as an excuse to tear up a neighborhood. I applaud the way they’ve been prosecuted this time, and also applaud the U’s tough stance, including expelling at least one student who participated in the riot and updating their code of conduct to include off-campus behavior.

Paul, I strongly urge you to reconsider this proposal. It doesn’t address the problem, and punishes those who had nothing to do with the riots. I’d also like to remind you of the lack of success in both prohibition of alcohol from 1920-1933 and in the current prohibition of drugs. A ban on bars in SE will just lead to more speakeasies being run in rental housing around here, making the problem worse, rather than better. Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to the problems it was intended to solve. [3]

I would like to thank you for having Allan mention this at our meeting on Tuesday so I would have some time to think about the issue before writing this letter.

Dave Polaschek
Marcy-Holmes resident


  1. Article. MN Daily: http://www.daily.umn.edu/articles/2003/05/08/5949
  2. Talks with business owners in Dinkytown the week following the riot. Documented at http://davespicks.com/archive/2003/hockeyriot2003.html
  3. "Alcohol Prohibition was a Failure", Mark Thornton, http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-157.html
  4. "Liquor license limits near U?", http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/4057585.html
Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:55:44.