Official ordinance issued for Unofficial event

At the University of Illinois, St. Patrick’s day has been unofficially set for Friday, March 2.

The pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration of Unofficial has been a tradition at the University of Illinois for decades.

It's rumored to have started by bar owners wanting to cash in on the holiday, but there was one problem: students are on spring break that day. So they made up their own day to celebrate. This year, Unofficial is March 2.

However, for city leaders, it’s anything but a celebration.

"We have had injuries, we have had deaths associated with this event in the past,” Urbana Mayor Dian e Marlin said. “We've had accidents we've had alcohol intoxication."

Mayor Marlin has put an emergency ordinance in place, something city leaders have done for more than a decade to try and control alcohol sales during the unofficial holiday.

The ordinance prevents certain campus bars from serving alcohol between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., limits the hours of liquor specials, and new this year, restrictions on the hours on alcohol delivery services.

"We want to educate students about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol, we want to make sure that it’s done in a safe manner,” Mayor Marlin said. “And we've been working very closely with the University of Illinois and the City of Champaign."

During last year’s event, 114 people had tickets issued to them, mostly for open container violations.

However, it’s the 30 people who ended up in the hospital with an alcohol-related illness that’s driving the way police will handle this year’s event.

Both Champaign and Urbana Police Departments will have staff patrolling the event, in addition to university police and sheriff’s deputies.

Urbana Police Lieutenant Jason Norton said his department will be more interested in getting attendees the medical help they might need, over writing them a ticket.

"Not to worry about any kind of enforcement action, we just want them to, if they have an issue, reach out to police or to medical so they can get their issue taken care of,” Lieutenant Norton said.

In years past the City of Champaign has also been known to put certain restrictions on alcohol during Unofficial, however, no emergency ordinance has been filed by the city yet.

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