Vol. 20, No. 3
Oct. 5, 2000
Since receiving the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant in 1996, the University has been involved in a community-wide effort to reduce binge drinking and the second-hand effects of alcohol abuse on campus.
This effort recently led to a change in the city's zoning laws, when Newark City Council voted at its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, to add UD residence halls to the list of "protected entities."
Under the amendment to section 32-56.4 of the city of Newark's zoning code, new businesses operating within 300 feet of churches, libraries, nursing homes, private residences andnowany structure that serves as a UD residence hall must abide by certain restrictions concerning the sale of alcohol.
This action halts the sale of alcoholic beverages after midnight, bars live entertainment and dancing and prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages at reduced prices by businesses operating within 300 feet of protected entities.
The amendment also places dormitories on the list of properties in Newark's central business district, where alcohol cannot be sold if the property line of the business is adjacent to a church, library, nursing home or private residence.
John Bishop, student life, who is director of the campus-community effort to curb binge drinking, said the amendment has a far-reaching impact.
"Due to the locations of the existing churches, libraries, dormitories and private residences, and the fact that several of the newer commercial developments on Main Street have been deed-restricted from selling alcohol," Bishop said, "new bars or restaurants that sell alcohol beverages on Main Street and on the part of Elkton Road that bisects the campus will be restricted from sponsoring activities that tend to encourage binge drinking."
Protecting students from the undesirable consequences that often accompany the sale of alcohol, especially during reduced-priced periods such as happy hours, has been a major goal of the campus-community coalition formed by the project.
Currently, the coalition also is looking at sections of the city ordinance that relate to alcohol, with the goal of closing any loopholes in zoning laws that may exist.
Project assistant Tracy Bachman, Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies, said the group is not a prohibition effort but an attempt to offer students the same benefits afforded to other protected entities and to stop the proliferation of more establishments that sell alcoholic beverages near UD residence halls.
The new law does not affect existing businesses because of a "grandfather" clause in the ordinance.
"We are working with these businesses to make some improvements and to reduce the negative results that occur when students abuse alcoholic beverages," Bachman said.
Doug Tuttle, Institute for Public Administration and co-chair of the coalition's Policy and Enforcement Task Group, said it was significant that the Newark Planning Commission and City Council approved the zoning amendment.
"Over the long term, this will give students in residence halls the same protection afforded to persons in other residential areas," Tuttle said.
In addition to helping the city gain more control of business licenses and practices concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages, the coalition is working to identify businesses that place an excessive burden on municipal services, such as the Newark Police Department, which often has to deal with the negative effects of alcohol use among UD students living in the Newark community.
Coalition member William Nefosky, Newark Police Department, and Policy Enforcement Task Force co-chair, said the new amendment might not have an immediate impact, but it will definitely serve as an effective tool in the future.
"We don't want to control business, but we want to make them act responsibly," Nefosky said. "We want to help put a handle on drinking problems and to keep businesses from encouraging excessive consumption."
Nefosky said the team spirit among coalition members has been very positive, and he also praised the efforts of student groups like SCENE (Students Creating New Events) for sponsoring non-alcoholic entertainment activities for UD students in the Newark community.