Sunday, October 2, 2022

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Elon’s drinking district

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Sometimes in Elon, it’s hard to know who are the adults and who are the students.

Let’s see if we understand the basics.

Elon’s board of aldermen – ostensibly the grown-ups in charge of the town – think it would be just nifty to have a designated area where residents can get drunk without penalty.

Oh, no, that’s not the way it’s described.

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Of course not.

Rather, like some other places, the stated, high-brow concept is that people who want to “sip and stroll” can fill up their cups with their favorite libation and walk around the block, visiting various bars and restaurants where they can recharge their alcoholic beverages.

Unfortunately, adding to the danger in Elon is that they can also cross the street to continue their strolling and drinking.

The standard law in most areas of North Carolina – cities, rural areas, and even college towns – is that “open containers” and other alcoholic beverages may not be displayed or consumed in public.

The state has come a long way – in “advancing” or “declining,” perhaps depending on one’s view of public drinking – over the past several decades as drinking has surpassed smoking as the favored public past-time.

But Elon’s town council members seem to think that a special, Covid-era accommodation in which such public libation was allowed should be reinstated now that the Covid danger has (largely) passed and the authority for such public displays of drinking with it.

We remember an earlier presentation to the council in which it was explained how popular the pandemic-era drinking district had been and how the downtown merchants – i.e., bars and restaurants – really want it restored.

Surprise. Surprise. They want to sell more alcohol.

Now, remember, of course, that the ostensible reason for allowing the outdoor drinking binge in the first place was that drinking – or doing anything else – in closed spaces like a bar, restaurant, etc. was believed to be dangerous.  So the barriers to public drinking, which had been heretofore banned across the state altogether, were lowered “temporarily.”

So we think the underlying premise of the state law that has now authorized such drinking districts all the time, even after the pandemic, euphemistically referred to as “social districts,” is unreasonable and very much  misplaced.

But we recognize that several large cities – Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro– have adopted such designated areas for drinking around their cities.

Even some smaller, or mid-size N.C. towns have also joined the fad, according to various news reports: including Salisbury, Wilson, Monroe, Mooresville, Hickory, Kannapolis, and Huntersville, among others.

But few of these are “college towns,” like Elon.

The idea of establishing a drinking district literally across the street from the university seems to us to be among the most unsound and ill-advised priorities we can imagine.

That’s why we’re questioning “what are you thinking” to Elon’s town council.

At a time when underage drinking is a problem, overindulging is a problem – dare we point out, especially among college students and young adults – the notion of expanding access to public alcohol consumption seems incredibly ironic and misguided.

Oh, and did we mention when people can “sip and stroll”?  Under Elon’s proposal, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day of the week (Sundays included).

Our only surprise is that the university itself hasn’t raised concerns about the idea, which certainly can contribute toward long-lasting damage to its students – both in their performance while enrolled and their long-term health and stability.

We certainly hope Elon’s town council will give a little more reflection to what this expansion would mean.

Elon has always prided itself on being a pretty little college town.

We’d hate to see that reputation besmirched by having its downtown becoming little more than a public beer hall.

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