Despite a request from Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo’s mayor for downtown bars not to open early on commencement day, the owners have decided to stay with the longstanding tradition of throwing open their doors at 6 a.m.
The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association — which represents downtown businesses — supports the decision by about 20 bar and restaurant owners to start early on the graduation days of June 14 and June 15.
On regular days, downtown bars typically open two or more hours later than 6 a.m.
Dominic Tartaglia, the Downtown Association’s executive director, said the owners believe that Cal Poly students are adults who have the right to make their own decisions about whether to consume alcohol.
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“The business owners’ biggest argument is that these are educated adults who can make decisions for themselves,” Tartaglia said. “They must take responsibility for their own behavior.”
For several years, local bars have kept earlier than normal business hours around commencement to serve students, their friends and family members — a ritual sometimes referred to as “pub crawling.”
Keith Humphrey, Cal Poly’s vice president for student affairs, and San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx sent a letter dated April 16 to the Downtown Association requesting the bars remain closed until 9 a.m., citing past disturbances of students who drank before the ceremonies.
Students are required to be in attendance at the commencement at 8 a.m.
“Over the past several years, Cal Poly has experienced an increase in the number of students that are intoxicated, disruptive, and disrespectful during our commencement ceremonies, Cal Poly’s most honored academic tradition,” the letter stated.
Tartaglia said bar owners haven’t experienced problems with disorderly students who patronize their businesses around graduation but said they wouldn’t monitor their behavior once they leave.
After meeting with Humphrey and Marx on Thursday, the association’s Food, Beverage and Service committee — which includes several bar owners — explained their position and agreed to help Cal Poly promote responsible behavior as part of a campaign that the university will initiate to address the issue.
The details of that campaign haven’t been formulated and are expected to be announced in the next few weeks. Tartaglia said it could include hanging posters or creating awareness about the issue of drinking.
The association’s Food, Beverage and Services committee unanimously “encouraged Cal Poly and Mayor Marx to include the downtown bar and restaurant owners in efforts to promote a ‘responsible drinking at graduation’ campaign,” Tartaglia said in a statement.
Cal Poly directed comments to Humphrey on Wednesday afternoon, saying he was in meetings during the day.
Humphrey said he’d be in meetings in the evening as well and would respond as soon as possible. He hadn’t responded by Wednesday evening.