Community members and law enforcement officials will see Saturday whether the push to cut down on excessive drinking on State Patty’s Day has paid off.
The scores of green-clad students who have annually filled downtown streets, the police blotter and the emergency room since the student-created holiday’s inception will still be seen Saturday, if social media is any indication.
But they will have fewer options to engage in the type of dangerous drinking authorities said has made the day one of the busiest of the year for police.
About three dozen bars have agreed not to serve alcohol Saturday, picking up $5,000 each for their trouble from a partnership of Penn State students and university and local leaders who sought to create an “alcohol-free” zone downtown.
Police have cautioned they will issue citations and maximum fines, not warnings, to those found drinking underage, drunk in public or committing other violations of the law.
State College police and the Penn State Office of Student Conduct have worked with local property managers to get the no-tolerance message out to students and to ask for their cooperation.
In a letter sent to property managers, and then passed on to tenants, Police Chief Tom King said many who engage in excessive drinking during the weekend are from out of the area, in town staying with Penn State students.
King asked tenants to help by not inviting guests, not serving large quantities of alcohol and keeping music to a reasonable level.
Some apartment buildings and complexes are going even further, adding security and cautioning that there will be no warnings before fines are issued for lease agreement/rules and regulations violations.
State College attorney Bernard Cantorna said most landlord-tenant leases clearly outline rules and regulations that apply to noise, disturbances and loud parties. Police also have a lot of latitude when investigating ordinance violations, he said.
While police may need a warrant to enter a residence, there is no expectation of privacy for common areas like hallways, stairs and lobbies. “When you are talking about apartment buildings, common areas are just that,” he said.
Also, with police advertising they are giving no warnings this weekend, Cantorna said it might be a good idea to just cancel the party.
“The reality is, if the police knock at your door, don’t have a loud party,” he said. “If they aren’t going to ask you cancel, you are better off canceling it on your own.”
Kristen Holzwarth, of Associated Realty Property Management, which owns several large apartment buildings downtown, said the company has been doing its part by working closely with police for the past few weeks.
Holzwarth praised the cooperation between authorities, business owners and even Penn State students.
“It’s the out-of-town guests that cause most of the commotion,” she said. “It it such a black eye on the university as a whole and the community.”
Still, some Penn State students fear the decision to close bars will potentially lead to greater dangers at house parties.
“I think that having the bars closed hurts the idea of trying to cut back on drinking. It’s safer to go drink at bars as opposed to apartments where there are no limits,” said Penn State junior Jessica Crawford. “Having the bars closed will decrease the number of people that go out, but it won’t decrease the drinking on State Patty’s.”
Others said the attention the holiday is generating has scared them away.
“From what I’ve heard, a lot of people aren’t going out because they don’t want to get in trouble. It scared me,” freshman Morgan Rohrbach said.
But to most students, like junior Skyler Leiser, this will just be a normal weekend at Penn State.
“I just turned 21, and I feel like my friends and I are responsible,” Leiser said. “We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize being a Penn State student.”