Penn State to spend more than $200,000 to curtail State Patty’s alcohol sales; some taverns negotiate higher payouts

mcarroll@centredaily.comFebruary 27, 2014 

Penn State had to increase its offer to get certain downtown establishments to go dry on State Patty’s Day, and now stands to give more than $200,000 to taverns, restaurants, bottle shops and beer distributors for their cooperation.

The university will shell out $186,250 to 34 downtown businesses and another $25,000 to five area beer distributors in exchange for agreements that they will either prohibit the sale of alcohol or close Saturday for the student-created drinking holiday.

Penn State officials previously said that downtown establishments were offered $2,500 to $7,500 in a tiered system that factored in how many patrons each could accommodate and therefore how much money they stood to lose. That system would have paid out $173,000 to the 34 businesses that accepted the offer, according to information provided by Penn State.

Instead, the university will pay that same group of 34 businesses $13,250 more after some apparently balked at the offer.

“Some establishments insisted upon greater compensation for their agreement to the arrangement,” Penn State spokesman Bill Zimmerman said in an email. “Since there was no collective negotiation with all the vendors like last year, we were left to deal with the individual demands of dozens of owners.”

In 2013, downtown establishment owners were offered a flat $5,000 for cooperating. That changed this year at the advice of the State College Tavern Association, according to university and State College borough officials.

The tiered system was meant to “more accurately (account) for the meaningful differences among the vendors affected by this offer,” borough and university officials said in a letter to the tavern association.

Association President Jennifer Zangrilli did not return messages seeking comment.

University officials also said Thursday that Penn State will pay stipends of $5,000 to five beer distributors. They did not identify the distributors.

That takes the total incentives Penn State will pay to $211,250, according to university figures. Last year, the university reportedly paid $170,000.

In 2013, the money came from parking revenues collected during previous State Patty’s Day celebrations, which date back to 2007. That funding source has been exhausted, Zimmerman said.

The compensation this year comes from a fund that is also used to pay for scholarships, student-related initiatives such as HUB LateNight entertainment and late-night Centre Area Transpiration Authority Loop bus service.

The fund includes revenue from student parking violations. The balance has grown in recent years beyond its designated uses, meaning the money being paid to local businesses won’t cause reductions in what is being spent on scholarships and other initiatives, Zimmerman said.

University and borough officials have said the effort to create an alcohol-free zone downtown, along with other initiatives in the community, helped curtail alcohol-fueled incidents during the 2013 version of State Patty’s Day.

Penn State police officers issued 46 citations in 2013, 60 fewer than in 2012. State College police saw a hefty decline in citations, too: 138 in 2013 compared with 222 in 2012.

There were 22 people taken to the hospital over State Patty’s Day weekend in 2013, which was down from the previous two years, which saw three dozen people hospitalized.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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