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Officials zoning in on University of Illinois’ Unofficial

The mayor of Champaign, city officials and University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana administration are taking extra precautions during this year’s Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.
The annual “holiday,” a U of I tradition started by a Champaign bar owner in 1996, starts today. Marketed as an alternative to St. Patrick’s Day, during which many schools hold their spring breaks, students from other schools flock to Champaign-Urbana to drink, usually starting early in the morning.
The day has historically resulted in high service calls to Champaign and Urbana police and fire departments. Last year, a man was hospitalized after he fell three stories from a balcony.
Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart, who also serves as liquor commissioner, enacted an emergency order to regulate the sale of alcohol in licensed liquor establishments, according to the city of Champaign.
The order prohibits bars and liquor stores from selling or serving alcohol before 11 a.m. Pitchers and shots will not be sold at bars, and the age to enter bars will be 21, while typically it is 19.
The city said it usually has more issues with private parties, spurring it to prohibit keg permits, which means only one keg per residence will be allowed.
The university has enacted a “no-tolerance” policy for academic disruption, U of I spokesperson Robin Kaler said.
Visitors will not be allowed in residence halls on Friday and Saturday, and extra security will be in all classrooms to take action if students bring liquor to class, Kaler said.
“It will be all hands on deck,” she said.
Last year, police issued 351 notices to appear in court during the event and made 15 arrests,       U of I’s student newspaper, the Daily Illini, reported.
The paper said police dealt with many calls about people throwing things off balconies, including TVs, beds and couches. A month-old city ordinance will prohibit people from throwing liquids or objects off balconies or out windows at this year’s event.
Last year, students from 52 colleges and universities attended from 12 states and two high schools, according to the Daily Illini.
Senior nursing major Jessica Bieschke will be attending Unofficial for the third time. She said she typically sticks to private parties in houses and apartments and attends a few throughout the day.
“There’s always a lot of cops driving around but it’s just expected because it’s not just U of I kids,” she said. “It’s a ton of different kids from different schools.”
Kelly Zoellick, a senior accounting major at U of I, said she doesn’t think the emergency ordinances will curb drinking.
“They have extra police on campus and give out crap loads of tickets, but people don’t care,” she said. “They drink anyway. Wake up at 8 and party all day.”
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