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Council OKs after-midnight fundraisers at bars

The City Council Monday loosened its recently-enacted midnight curfew for minors at bars with 3 a.m. closing times.

The change, in response to pleas from Northwestern University student groups, permits the five 3 a.m. bars to hold up to a total of 40 late-night charity fundraisers a year that persons under age 21 would be permitted to attend.

Ald. Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who led the fight for the curfew, dropped her opposition to the amendment, saying that after hearing testimony from students and reading newspaper editorials opposing the ban, “I don’t want to be one of only one or two people” opposing the amendment.

Instead, she proposed a further amendment, which the council adopted. It imposes a one year ban on hosting fundraisers on any bar that accumulates three liquor law violations. It also eliminates a provision that would have banned any student group from hosting a fundraiser for a year if underage drinking occurred at one of its events.

“The whole point of the ordinance wasn’t to put kids in bed at midnight,” Ald. Rainey said, “the whole point is to keep underage people from drinking.”

“Our relationship is with the licensee, and this is the opportunity of a lifetime to hold our bars responsible,” she said.

If there’s a problem with a student group, she added, it can be banned by the bars – which will want to keep the privilege of hosting the profitable fundraisers.

Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said if student groups are concerned about the fate of their fundraisers, they can take the initiative to not schedule them at bars that have two liquor law violations.

The council also voted to require bar owners to hire an off-duty Evanston police officer to be present at fundraisers and to take another look at the regulations in nine months.

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