Will cracking down on college students push businesses to the brink?

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 12:46 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Burlington bar and restaurant owners are concerned the city's efforts to crack down on college students will force them to close.

Now, some are pushing back against the mayor's proposal to stop alcohol sales after 10 p.m.

Business owners tell me by effectively shutting down bars after 10 p.m., Mayor Miro Weinberger would be attempting to solve one problem by creating another.

If Weinberger's emergency resolution is passed at Thursday night's City Council meeting, the Burlington Business Association says already struggling bars may not survive through the fall.

BBA Executive Director Kelly Devine says the action will turn away regular customers who frequent late-night locations after work.

Most importantly, though, Devine says it will significantly hurt those who rely on tips to make a living.

"I'm more worried about all the people who work both in bars and restaurants and the money that they're making at those shifts. I mean, this impacts workers," Devine said.

Devine says especially those employees who work at bars that don't start picking up until 11 p.m. or later and stay open until 1 or 2 a.m.

Sweetwaters owner David Melincoff says he believes the city would be making a huge economic sacrifice.

Like his restaurant, he says many others are experiencing a 40%-50% drop in revenue compared to last year. This could be the final straw.

Ultimately, he says he's not convinced this strategy is the right solution.

"Is it better to have some people going out and having fun and drinking in a regulated environment versus just saying no not at all, and then just having them go out on their own and do whatever they're going to do?" Melincoff said.

It's a concern echoed by other bar owners-- if the college students don't party downtown, where will they go?

Melincoff and Devine say they're sure closing bars at 10 p.m. will encourage students to congregate at off-campus housing in residential neighborhoods. At least at bars, they say the kids could be somewhat supervised.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, has called a special City Council meeting for Thursday night. Devine and Melincoff say they plan to be there with backup from other business owners.

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