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March 10, 2014

Officials: 'St. Oney's Day' posts go too far

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Area college students celebrated “St. Oney’s Day” on Saturday, and some local officials aren’t happy about the enthusiasm of a local bar for the “holiday.” 

Barry Shaver, manager of the Red Jug Pub, said St. Oney’s Day is a makeshift holiday organized by college students two years ago when they discovered that their spring break would overlap with St. Patrick’s Day. The pub has become a hub of sorts for St. Oney’s Day, Shaver said. 

The bar’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were abuzz during the week, dubbing the Red Jug the St. Oney’s Day “headquarters.” Shaver said the bar opened at 9 a.m. and business was steady all day. Highlights included green beer, and Irish food from neighboring restaurant Oneonta Hots. 

On March 6, the Red Jug Pub posted a photo on its Instagram, with the following phrase printed over top a photo of a full glass of beer: “Me blacking out when I’m drunk is God’s way of telling me that what I do when I drink is none of my business.” 

The photo was “liked” by 36 users and was accompanied by a caption by the Red Jug Pub: “Haha this is a St. Oney’s Day poster if we ever saw one!” 

Common Council member Dave Rissberger said the longer he looked at the Instagram post, the angrier he became. 

“As a parent,” Rissberger said, “it gives me the impression that my kid or a friend of mine could go into that bar and drink until they can’t breathe, and no one in that bar is going to do a damn thing about it.”

The post was “irresponsible and disturbing,” Rissberger said, especially for a successful local business. 

As a respected establishment that sells alcohol, he said, the Red Jug Pub should be responsible for its patrons and their health. 

Rissberger said he saw young people heading downtown on Saturday as early as 9 a.m., dressed in green. He was concerned that the students would not be pacing themselves, he said, and that partying “that much” was not healthy. Getting black-out drunk shouldn’t be looked at as a positive pursuit or a humorous activity, he added. 

“As any health professional will tell you, blacking out is the first sign of a serious problem,” Rissberger said. “ Anything could happen while being blacked out ... it’s not funny.”

Oneonta police chief Dennis Nayor said the force was busy Saturday, with arrests for underage drinking, DWI, disorderly conduct and noise violations, but he added that his force had been prepared for the “holiday” with increased police patrols. 

As for the Red Jug Pub’s post, Nayor said he thought it was inappropriate and, potentially, prohibited.

“I will be conferring with the state liquor authority,” Nayor said.

Common Council member Mike Lynch called the Instagram post “nonsense,” but said it was not surprising. There are two types of bar owners in Oneonta, he said: ones who do a good job at controlling binge drinking and policing underage drinkers, and ones who make their money from it.

“It’s hard to make a living for an honest, law-abiding tavern keeper in Oneonta because they are at a competitive disadvantage to those bars that sell to minors and don’t cut people off when they’ve had too much,” Lynch said. 

Hal Legg, SUNY Oneonta’s director of communications, said his first thoughts after seeing the Instagram post and subsequent “#st.oney’sday” tweets and pictures were as a parent who would be mortified if he saw his child participating in the antics. 

As a college official, Legg said, “We don’t find anything humorous or clever about blacking out.”

“It looks like the St. Oney’s Day hashtag on Twitter,” Legg said, “is ... a catalog of really bad decision-making.”