As Halloween weekend approaches, students are encouraged to make safe decisions when venturing off campus. The Food, Beverage & Services Committee has introduced a handful of safety campaigns. | File photo/Mustang News

Harry Chang
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This weekend offers plenty of reasons to celebrate: Halloween is here, midterms are over and the UC Santa Barbara soccer team is coming to town.

But with the arrival of the quarter’s marquee weekend also comes a few extra words of caution from people such as Kimberly Walker, owner of Granada Bistro and Hotel and member of the Food, Beverage & Services Committee, who hopes to keep downtown San Luis Obispo a fun and safe drinking environment during the busy weekend.

“It really is no joke,” Walker said. “If you pull up the city map of all of the offenses that have happened over the last year, an overwhelming majority are somehow alcohol-related: disturbing the peace, DUI, destruction of property. And things like a DUI are not a fun thing to get.”

Some of the most common offenses that happen downtown are regularly shown to be the result of over-drinking, and the Food Beverage & Services Committee is working hard to make sure students understand the risks of losing control.

“I think in the big picture, we all want students to come down and drink and have a great time,” said Jessica Behrens, committee member and promotions assistant at the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association. “But with moderation. We don’t want people having to throw up suddenly while they’re in the front of businesses or have people urinating in alleyways and just disrespecting downtown as a whole. We all want to appreciate downtown, and it’s tough to do when people drink so much that it affects the businesses and retailers.”

The community relationship between students and permanent residents is also a big reason the committee is rolling out campaigns that stress the importance of responsible drinking for this weekend and beyond.

“If after everyone drinks downtown and they’re walking back to campus, they start knocking trash cans over; that disrupts our community as a whole and would be something that really frustrates ‘SLO-cals,’” Behrens said. “Our committee is here to keep communication open between Cal Poly and downtown and try and keep a respect factor that should be there. Students should be welcomed and part of the community.”

Earl Olson, general manager of Mother’s Tavern and fellow committee member, has seen firsthand the ill effects of alcohol abuse.

“Just obey the law and just don’t get too carried away,” Olson said. “It sounds like a fun thing to do, but a lot of campaigns we’ve developed as a committee for all the major, more populated times downtown, they are just reminders that people do need to act in an appropriate manner as they would without being overly intoxicated.”

Olson also pointed out that increased traffic expected around San Luis Obispo this weekend means heavier penalties and more chances offenders will be caught.

“There are double fines that are levied (on weekends such as Halloween),” Olson said. “The police department, they step up their efforts quite a bit by bringing in officers from out of the area. They make sure to have an increased number of foot patrol — and while they’re all very reasonable, people will be penalized if they get out of line.”

As part of its #DrinkSafe, #DrinkSLO Halloween campaign, which promotes moderation in drinking, the Food, Beverages & Services Committee has partnered with Uber and is offering students $20 toward their first ride when they use the code “drinkslo.

“I think because of these measures and the education that (the police department) and people like ourselves are trying to put out there, things have improved,” Behrens said. “I think that before, students were largely kind of led blindly, aside from the examples people like Earl would have to make of throwing people out of bars and things like that. I think it’s now very verbalized and very published that there are consequences.”

In addition, because of San Luis Obispo’s vibrant downtown, weekends such as these draw thousands of non-students from out of town, Olson said.

“We’ll have tens of thousands going out and partying on a big weekend from inside the area and outside, and a lot of times it’s just a handful of incidents, and many aren’t even students,” Olson said. “When it does come to students, I think we do a good job and know that there’s an education process that goes on, and we’re very patient. I think that overall, in San Luis Obispo, we have it pretty good.”

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