Pub crawl needs a sponsor

Saturday’s spring pub crawl once again reinforced “Sloshkosh’s” reputation as a city full of heavy drinkers. Although there were no serious incidents, the streets surrounding downtown Oshkosh and the UWO campus were brimming with residents and students looking for a good time. Unfortunately, that good time often results in vandalism and littering among other disruptions. The UWO music department’s Musica Viva! also took place on Saturday, and a lack of pub crawl control caused some inconveniences for those attending the concert, many of whom are donors to the department. Music department Chairwoman Alison Shaw said all of the parking lots close to the Arts and Communications building were filled with pub-crawlers, making it difficult for some of the patrons to get to the event, especially those with mobility issues. “While downtown businesses certainly have the right to host coordinated events, the University parking lots should not automatically become the overflow parking areas by default– especially during the semester when there are a lot of on-campus events happening as well,” Shaw said. “As a parent and grandparent, I am especially concerned about the number of cars parked on campus for the pub crawl and the percentage of impaired drivers taking those cars off campus at the end of the night.” Pub crawl has become somewhat of an Oshkosh tradition that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It’s easy to condemn the event along with its hordes of drunken participants–no one likes broken glass or traffic hazards. But if the city embraced and helped coordinate pub crawl like it does other events, everyone involved could have a safer, more enjoyable experience. For the past two years, no one has claimed the responsibility for pub crawl. It just sort of happens. Because of this, the city of Oshkosh, seeking compensation for an increased police presence and other services, filed two lawsuits against Joseph Kubiak, whom they claim organized pub crawls in 2014 without applying for the proper permits. Kubiak made and sold T-shirts for the event but maintains that he is not its organizer. The city is seeking $5,141.71 as well as a $1,000 fine for not applying for the permits. Kubiak has already paid them $2,000, but the city is determined to collect the remaining funds. Oshkosh also considered going after the participating taverns, but has yet to take any significant action. The responsibility for Saturday’s pub crawl has once again gone unclaimed. Instead of making Kubiak a scapegoat or going after Oshkosh bars, the city should consider taking control of the event itself. As of now, city council members say that is just not a possibility. “I don’t think it’s really prudent for cities or really any kind of government to get into some kind of enterprise where there’s risk involved,” city council member Sean Fitzgerald said. “I own a business too. As business owners we take risks and we’re not necessarily gonna make the money back that we spent on putting an event on. Thats why the events are left to the organizations.” City council member Caroline Panske said she also opposed the idea of a city-sponsored pub crawl. “I just wish that the organizer, or at least the person profiting from the sale of event T-shirts would step up to the plate and organize this properly,” Panske said. “Without taking the proper steps to run an event such as the pub crawl, you put the public at risk and jeopardize the shutting down of the entire event.” If the right steps are taken, pub crawl could become more of a festival like “Art Walk” or “Irish Fest.” By adding more attractions, food and live music, the entire atmosphere of pub crawl could change for the better, shifting the focus away from binge drinking and creating a more community-oriented event. “Students could be encouraged to take pledges to party responsibly,” Shaw said. “I think the downtown businesses and the University are interdependent, and events that encourage downtown patronage should be encouraged. These events could be more centered around food and activity and not just drinking.” UWO assistant professor of music Dylan Chmura-Moore shared similar views and said pub crawl doesn’t need to give Oshkosh and the University such a bad image. “The real question is, since pub crawl is probably here to stay, how can pub crawl become a safe and community building event for everyone in the city?” Chmura-Moore said. “I know of pub crawl-like events in other cities where people ride their bikes from pub to pub gaining exercise, enjoying the outdoors, supporting the economy of lots of little rural towns and raising money for charities.” With no private organizations interested in coordinating the event and a lack of support from the city council, it seems collecting the expenses associated with the event will continue to be a game of cat and mouse between its unknown organizers and Oshkosh Police. Saturday once again proved that pub crawl will happen regardless of city approval. If neither the city nor private organizations take responsibility, students and citizens can continue to expect pub crawl to return in the fall along with the usual consequences it brings.