Cody Uhing, a Northwest Missouri State University sophomore currently serving as a campus liaison to the Maryville City Council, announced Thursday that the Northwest Student Senate has formally adopted a position on a proposal to raise the city's bar and tavern entry age limit from 19 to 21.
Uhing said the the Student Senate unanimously passed the resolution April 2, and that it strongly calls on the city to leave the age limit where it is.
The resolution, of which Uhing was the primary author, states that raising the age minimum to 21, Missouri's legal drinking age, would exclude younger college students without providing them with "a safer environment for their weekend plans."
The document further asserts that while raising the age limit might decrease liability for bar owners, barring 19- and 20-year-olds would lead to an "increase in unsupervised and potentially dangerous gatherings."
Northwest's primary student governance organization adopted the resolution in response to the council's request for feedback from students.
"We brought it up for a vote because we wanted an official opinion from students," Uhing said. "I was not surprised that we got a unanimous vote to not raise the age."
Given the results of various surveys and other input during the months-long bar entry debate, the Student Senate's action was no wonder. What has been, perhaps, unexpected is the city's positive response to student arguments that raising the age limit will add to the number of house parties, which usually lack both security and any effort to limit drinking to those over 21.
During a public City Council hearing held on campus March 4, Maryville Public Safety Director Keith Wood remarked that "as a parent" he would rather his child go dancing at a bar monitored by police officers and bouncers than to a private party where there is an increased risk for binge drinking and sexual assault.
Asked Thursday for a response to the resolution, Mayor Glenn Jonagan, said he understands that Northwest students "feel very strongly that they need a social outlet."
Jonagan added that his sense of the issue based on reactions from the four other council members is that the age limit will likely stay at 19. He emphasized, however, that he could not speak for the other members, and that a second planned public hearing focused on the community at large has yet to take place. Until that happens, Jonagan said, the issue remains undecided.
"You have to remember that other college towns like Warrensburg and Columbia have already gone through this process, and their decision was to go back to 21," he said.
Complicating the issue, Jonagan said, is that local bar and tavern owners remain divided on the question and appear unlikely to come to any sort of agreement.
"I'm not even sure we're going to be able to get everybody in the same room," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - One thing Jonagan would like to see come out of the age-limit discussion is an open container ordinance that would ban drinking in public.
As for the Student Senate resolution, Jonagan said the input is welcome, and that the council will give the students' position due consideration.
"We haven't got the public input yet, but it (the resolution) weighs a great deal. The college is extremely important to the community, so, yes, we'll consider it very seriously."
Uhing also believes that the council will not take their opinion lightly.
"This helps the students be accurately represented in the community," Uhing said. "And it speaks a lot about the council. Since we formed this position two years ago, there has been more dialogue between students and the city.
I think that is the best thing that has come out of this."