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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Powering down ‘power hours’

Some bars, including the Auld Dubliner on University Avenue and Euclid Avenue, admit patrons on their 21st birthdays while others chose not to due to liability issues.
Some bars, including the Auld Dubliner on University Avenue and Euclid Avenue, admit patrons on their 21st birthdays while others chose not to due to liability issues.

The 21st birthdays of some students come with a related rite of passage: a power hour.

The celebration of the ability to legally drink starts at midnight and continues until bars close at 2 a.m.

“”You go out with all your friends,”” said Brandy Ronstadt, a bartender at the Auld Dubliner. “”It’s kind of like your christening into bar life.””

Power hour gained national attention in 2004 when Jason Reinhardt, a Minnesota college student, died from alcohol poisoning after his birthday night. The practice continues to be popular but has limitations at many bars.

Students going out for power hour often visit multiple bars and drink at all of them.

“”They don’t really think about moderation,”” Ronstadt said. “”Their friends all want to buy them their favorite shot or what they think will get them the drunkest. It’s not usually in their control.””

The combination of a seemingly unlimited access to alcohol and the spirit of celebration can put students at risk for excessive drinking.

“”I think that for a birthday party, there is the celebratory thing,”” said Lynn Reyes, alcohol and drug prevention specialist for Campus Health Service. “”The environment is part of the factors that encourage us to drink more than what we might otherwise.””

Bars that frequently entertain 21 year olds try to look out for those who may overdo their first night out. Maria Campas, a bartender at the Buffet and Crock Pot, said people celebrate their 21st birthdays at the bar nightly and are each given a free 24-oz beer.

“”Most likely they (drink their beer), ring the bell and then regulars will buy them drinks,”” Campas said. “”They come out of here pretty drunk, but we make sure they have a designated driver.””

Ronstadt said power hours often lead to intervention from bar staff.

“”I would say more often than not,”” she said. “”We’ve definitely had to cut off a lot of newly 21 year olds.””

Some students turn their power hour into a game encouraging binge drinking.

“”You take 21 shots in your first hour,”” said pre-physiology sophomore Miranda McDonald. “”I know people for sure who’ve tried. I don’t know if they’ve succeeded.””

Many bars do not allow the practice, so students barhop throughout the night.

“”I’ve seen a lot of people who have little lists of where they’ve taken shots,”” Ronstadt said. “”I can’t say I’ve seen anyone make the 21.””

Chemical engineering sophomore Robert Cook said he skipped his own power hour but has watched friends try the 21-shot challenge.

“”I didn’t really try to stop them,”” Cook said. “”They didn’t really get sick because their tolerance is so high. Eventually, they don’t even make it through it. They stop.””

The threat of excessive drinking has caused some bars to refuse service to 21-year-olds until 8 a.m. on their birthday.

“”We don’t do what university students call ‘power hour,'”” said Bill Nugent, owner of The Shanty. “”We can’t serve them that night.””

Nugent said the bar was advised by its insurance company to start service the following day. Bartenders run the risk of over-serving people who have been drinking at other bars or parties.

“”You have no way of tracking how much they’ve consumed,”” Nugent said.

Not all students partake in power hour for their 21st birthdays.

“”I think you’re expected to go out a get a little wasted on that day,”” said pre-pharmacy junior Kelsey Armstrong, who added she does not drink.

Armstrong said she is going to Las Vegas when she turns 21 this year.

“”I just think it’s something fun,”” Armstrong said. “”There are other things to do.””

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