For those of you who don’t go to school with me (many of my readers, I suspect), the Keg is a bar in Evanston, with a seedy reputation. You can read what the general opinions of it is here, but I’ll just summarize: The Keg is typically regarded as a dive that exists for the sole purpose of letting underage NU students and teens from Chicago’s north suburbs get black-out drunk.
Today, the Keg had its liquor license revoked. You can read an article about it here, if you like. There’s been some opposition to this action, of course. You can’t hinder the flow of booze to underage drinkers without raising a ruckus from my alleged peers. All the opposition, though, is flimsy as all hell.
One argument against the revocation of the liquor license is that it won’t stop underage drinking, a pathetic argument that somehow made it into the school newspaper. When I heard this presented as an argument against taking action against the Keg, I wanted bang my head against the wall. Of course revoking the Keg’s liquor license isn’t going to end all underage drinking. Nobody thinks it’s going to end underage drinking. What it will end is underage drinking at the Keg. As you can read in the article I linked to (the one that was just news, not the editorial), the Keg has had well over one hundred alcohol related citations since 2005. The Keg’s lousy reputation doesn’t stem from a few isolated incidents that have been blown out of proportion, it comes from a systematic failure to follow the laws that have been put in place for the betterment of the community.
Yes, NU undergrads are still going to drink at house parties and at frats. That’s problematic, too, but not nearly so easily solved. This isn’t going to fix the problem, but it does remove one of the major contributors to it. What Tisdahl has effectively done is remove a tumor. It hasn’t cured the cancer, but it has helped. To say that we shouldn’t revoke the Keg’s liquor license just because it won’t solve the problem of underage drinking in one stroke would effectively cripple any attempt to combat underage drinking, because there’s no single action we can take to put a stop to it. It’s all part of a process, and this is a damn good start.
Another argument I’ve heard is that if the Keg can’t sell alcohol, then it can’t support itself. I’ll respond with a loud and resounding “so what?” Some say this is a problem because then Migon, the owner, won’t be able to support his family. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but “I make good money off of it,” is not, nor has it ever been, an accepted excuse for repeatedly breaking the law. If we withhold punishment whenever a criminal was profiting off their crimes, then we might as well throw out our legal system altogether.
Others claim that that’s a problem because it’s indicative of Tisdahl being “anti-business!” Oh noes! I’m not sure where these wannabe Libertarians learned about Capitalism, but here’s a quick lesson. There is an open market. In that market, people come to sell products, either that they have made or provide, or that they have acquired from someone else and are now selling for a profit. Those that sell superior products and have superior business models will prosper, whereas those who have inferior business models and sell inferior products will go bankrupt and will have to start over from square one. Since we don’t live in an entirely laissez faire society, we have certain rules to ensure that businesses can’t make products that are so bad that they are actively hurting consumers. Some shortsighted folks claim that regulations hurt businesses, but I disagree. Ensuring that you can’t make a product so shitty that it hurts your consumers ensures that you’ll have a client base a year from now.
The purpose of this little foray into Capitalist theory was to point out that Mayor Tisdahl has not “attacked business” by taking away the Keg’s liquor privileges. Rather, in revoking the license, Tisdahl is showing that Migon cannot be trusted to play the Capitalism game with the big boys. Maybe if he had provided a decent product (that is, a bar that doesn’t repel people who have other options), he wouldn’t have had to rely on the illegal patronage of suburban high school students and underage university students. As it stands now, he might still be able to pull out of his downward spiral by serving good food and providing a nice atmosphere. I doubt he can contend with Prairie Moon, Bar Louie, and Tommy Nevin’s, though. So, all you would be Libertarians who claim that this is unfairly destroying business, think again. He played the game, he lost, and he spent years cheating to try to stay afloat.
Those of you who have been reading this blog since I started will likely recall that I actually suggested this in one of my first posts (well, actually, I said the Keg should just be closed, but this works too). The reasons for that still apply, I think, and I stand by them. If students can’t get their mass quantities of booze south of downtown Evanston, then they won’t stumble through half of Evanston to get back to their dorms. People have been whining that, since this is a “college town,” underage drinking at bars is par for the course and should be accepted. While I would say Evanston is far from a college town (seriously, I’ve been to college towns. This is not a college town.), I disagree with the statement regardless of Evanston’s status. When you have a university, then yes, there are going to be lots of students drinking. That said, I hardly think that that’s an excuse, so much as a warning that law enforcement is going to have to make more arrests and be on the offensive.
The last, and probably most pathetic and insulting, argument I’ll mention is that some people claim the Keg as a “rite of passage” for NU students. I’ve never gone to the Keg (my opinions on it are formed based on the effects I’ve seen it have on others, testimonials, etc.). Does that make me less of an NU student? I hardly think so. I’m an active member of SHAPE and Secular Student Alliance. I take 300 level courses. I attend lectures given by visiting professors and other speakers. Hell, if you want to talk about things more exclusive to Northwestern, I’ve guarded the Rock, I’ve gone to Burger King at three in the morning, I’ve done the “Primal Scream” (or yell, or shout, or roar. Accounts seem to differ…). Setting aside that going to the nearby dive bar isn’t an indicator of whether or not you’re a student at Northwestern, do any of you really want it to be? We’re consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the country. We have some gorgeous architecture. We have professors at the tops of their fields. Get some class, and don’t try to make getting wasted at a shady bar the identifying characteristic of this great institution.
So, that is why I have no sympathy or pity in regards to the fate of the Keg. It’s a shady bar that owes its existence to its status as the supplier of booze to underage customers. From the standpoint of a resident of Evanston, I want it gone because it cranks out loud, drunken miscreants. From the standpoint of a student of Northwestern University, I want it gone because its continued existence enables the behavior that besmirches the great name of my school. From the standpoint of a Capitalist, I want it gone because it tried to cheat the system and put the consumer base in danger. There was no excuse for the way it was operating, and every reason to strike it down.