In the 1990s, New Paltz had a problem. Gang-related crime had become a presence, and a violent stabbing in 1997 stopped public officials in their tracks. New Paltz village and town leaders blamed local bars for what they saw as rampant radio ads for wet T-shirt contests and cheap drinks. They thought it attracted the wrong element and fueled a rowdy atmosphere.
Fifteen years ago, in 1999, elected officials sat down with SUNY New Paltz college administrators and bar owners to work out a plan to mitigate the drunken violence on Main Street.
Out of those meetings came the Tavern Owners Agreement — a document that forbade sexually explicit advertising, and asked bars to phase out exploitative low-price drink specials and to eliminate or give zero publicity to wet T-shirt contests.
Last week, the college, village and town officials, and bar owners marked the 15th anniversary of the original Tavern Owners Agreement.
“We take very seriously at the college our role in supporting initiatives that benefit our students and also our host community,” explained Donald Christian, SUNY New Paltz’s president. “Today we celebrate 15 years of collaboration between SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz Tavern Owners Association, New Paltz Police Department and town and village representatives.”
Christian said the agreement had been integral in fostering student safety and civility throughout New Paltz.
The college president also stressed the aid the school gives to the town — a working mutual aid agreement between campus police and the NPPD, and the donations SUNY gives to support off-campus police, fire, ambulance and bus service.
Robin Cohen-La Valle, the associate dean of students, noted that New Paltz’s pact had become a nationwide model for how colleges and municipalities can join forces to deal with substance abuse and alcohol-related crime.
“We were proud that a panel of us were asked to present at the U.S. Department of Education’s 13th annual conference on alcohol prevention — and then be invited to Washington D.C. the next year for a national forum,” Cohen-La Valle said.