Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day

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Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day at C.O. Daniels in 2005. Photo courtesy of Kurt Groetsch.

Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day, (commonly known as Unofficial), is a local event on the Urbana-Champaign campus, which aims to replace the celebration of the official Saint Patrick's Day holiday with excessive drinking of alcohol.

On this rarest of occasions when even the engineers are known to engage in public drunkenness it is customary to swaffle as many people or objects as one can.

In the mid 1990's St. Patrick's Day began to fall on the week of spring break on the academic calendar, which lead students to celebrate away from the campus if at all. In February 1996 the Clybourne's general manager Steve Gomric proposed "Unofficial St. Patrick's Day" at a managers meeting of Cochrane Enterprises. Managers Dan Evans (Cochranes), Brian Lechner (CO Daniels), Chris Habel (R & R Sports Grill) and Chris Copeland (Cochrane Enterprises) agreed to promote "Unofficial St. Patrick's Day" at all campus bars. Bar owner Scott Cochrane green lighted the project following the February meeting. The first "U n OF f I cial" St. Patrick's Day took place in March 1996.

The event is usually celebrated the weekend before the official Saint Patrick's Day holiday. Bars once opened as early as 7 a.m., but new city regulations have now limited bar hours on Unofficial. Students often wear customized green t-shirts, some with slogans such as "Drink 'til you're Irish" or "Irish I were drunk."

Cochrane owns The Clybourne, Firehaus and C.O. Daniels.

Source(s): Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day

Arrests and citations

Police ticketed 267 during the event in 2009.

C.O. Daniels closed down mid-afternoon during the event in 2008.

Urbana and Champaign police ticketed 176 during the event in 2007: 119 for underage drinking, 22 for carrying open alcohol, seven for fighting, six for battery and five for resisting arrest. Most alcohol fines were $290; estimated fines from all violators totaled $44,000.

More than 2/3 of those arrested or ticketed in 2007 were students at different universities, such as:

  • Parkland College
  • Illinois State University
  • Millikin University
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Indiana University
  • University of Iowa
  • Purdue University
  • Campuses in Texas and Michigan

Police ticketed 103 in 2006.

Female graduate student Caroline Yoon, 22, was killed when she fell off an accelerating motorcycle at Healey and Wright Streets dring Unofficial St. Patrick's Day in 2006.

Source(s): Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day

University and cities response

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart issued an emergency order restricting alcohol sales in Campustown in 2008 from February 29 to March 1. Schweighart is also the Champaign liquor commissioner, who has the power to close campus bars if necessary. Some of the orders provisions include:

  • Restaurants and bars can't serve alcohol until 11 a.m.
  • Pitchers of beer and shots of hard liqour are prohibited
  • All drinks must be served in paper or plastic cups
  • Residences are limited to one keg
  • Those purchasing a keg, seven cases of beer or 24 or more one-liter bottles of hard liqour must complete an "adult responsibility form," which indicates the address of where the alochol is to be served

Chancellor Richard Herman sent a letter to the parents of students, asking them to encourage their children to "act in their best interests and the best interests of the University of Illinois" in February, 2008. Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing and Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighardt signed the letter. Herman attended the Champaign City Council meeting February 26, 2008, to urge members to take a stronger stance against bar owners who promoted the holiday.

The housing department issued a no-guest policy to undergraduate residents during the event in 2008. People without an i-card were asked to leave.

Professor of law Francis Boyle filed a complaint with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in 2008 asking state officials to suspend and revoke Cochrane's liquor licenses. The commission only has authority to do so with clear evidence of wrongdoing and a court hearing.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs sent a letter to the Greek Council in 2008 to promote responsible behavior during the event. The office forbade social events at the same time in 2007, but allowed some events in 2008.

Source(s): Unofficial Saint Patrick's Day