Pub Crawl under microscope

Hannah Baker

Several downtown retail businesses have voiced concern about Pub Crawl.

Pub Crawl is under fire after complaints from downtown businesses and locals say the event shines a negative light on the community and interferes with business for retailers not participating in the annual beer bash.

The Brookings City Council has discussed the concerns at its meetings and Brookings City Manager Jeff Weldon said although the council can advise Downtown Brookings Inc., and tavern owners about the concerns, the decision on whether or not changes are made ultimately rests with the hosts of the event.

“This is not a city-sanctioned event, so the council has no control over whether or not changes are made or if it’s cancelled,” Weldon said. “There’s no law saying people can’t move from place to place in a large group.”

Weldon said the number one complaint against crawlers has been public intoxication. However, despite being an argument against Pub Crawl, Weldon said arrests have been relatively low during the event that takes place around St. Patrick’s Day.

“By and large we have not had a lot of arrests on that day, but there’s still concern that it’s getting out of hand,” he said.

The city council has asked Downtown Brookings Inc., to see if changes could be made to the event, including a change to the event’s hours so it starts later in the afternoon or evening to give other retailers a better chance at maintaining regular business, Weldon said.

Jeremy Deutsch, manager of Cubby’s Bar and Grill said Pub Crawl is a traditional event that brings in big business for not only Cubby’s but also other taverns. He does not foresee any major changes happening in the near future.

He said even if Cubby’s advertised crawlers start later in the day, he would still have people ready to walk through the doors at 11 a.m. when the restaurant opens.

“We’ve tried having it start later. One year we said we would start it at 4 p.m. and another time at 1:30 p.m., but regardless of that people are going to come down when they want to come down,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch also said although Pub Crawl is growing every year, Cubby’s works to make sure the event is safe for participants by not over-serving, offering food and water to those who need it, and working with police officers.

“We’re taking steps to keep people safe and if people are in rough shape, we try to get them rides,” said Deutsch.

Dillon Morris, a senior advertising major from Sturgis, said he participated in Pub Crawl last year and although the streets were flooded with people, he said he never felt his safety was in jeopardy.

“I think whenever you put that many people in a centralized area, add alcohol and music you can expect things to get really busy, but I never felt things got out of hand,” Morris said.

Although much of the scrutiny toward the Pub Crawl has come from downtown businesses, Cheryl Meyer, owner of Party Depot in downtown Brookings, said she has no problem with the event.

“I haven’t had any complaints from customers or had people come into my store and act inappropriately during Pub Crawl, so as long as it continues to not interfere with my business I don’t have a problem with it,” she said.

Other opposing businesses say the event is harmful and would rather see it disappear. Cover to Cover Manager Laurie Wilts said the bookstore sees a noticeable drop in business on the Saturday of Pub Crawl.

“I think it’s really unnecessary and the event hurts our business,” Wilts said. “If people want to go to the bars that’s all fine and dandy, but when it starts deterring from the family downtown atmosphere it hurts retail business during the day because then people don’t want to be out shopping during something like that.”

Morris said although he can understand why retail businesses may be turned off to Pub Crawl, it only happens once a year.

“It’s one day out of the year, and yes it’s a long day, but the bars can argue that the money other businesses lose in that one day can’t compare to how much the bars make,” he said. “I’m sure other businesses lose a small percentage, but honestly for how well the bars do on that day, it’s not worth shutting down.”