Jordyn Kehle/The AS Review

There’s an ever-growing thought among Western students as they complete their chemistry labs, marketing projects or English essays, and it often includes a Copper Hog, a Wild Buffalo or even a Beaver.

It’s no secret that downtown Bellingham bars serve as a refuge for students trying to escape the overwhelming stress of school. It’s also no secret that downtown nightlife can sometimes foster unsafe and disorderly behavior.

However, a local campaign known as Bellingham Nightlife: Advice on Tap is striving to reduce alcohol-induced disruptive behaviors among 21 to 25 year olds.

The primary goal of the campaign is to promote safe drinking among the younger visitors to Bellingham’s downtown bars.

Advice on Tap campaigns occur the first Thursday night of every month and include two main pieces: education and enforcement. As part of the education portion of the campaign, the Advice on Tap crew, including Western students and downtown bar staff, walk around to several bars encouraging safe drinking choices.

The crew can be easily seen wearing white T-shirts with the Advice on Tap logo on the front. The logo mimics the design of Rainier beer cans. A list on the back of the shirt gives the campaign’s eight tips of advice for patrons, including: “Take a cab home—it’s cheaper than a DUI,” “Find a bouncer if a customer is bugging you,” and “Can’t decide whether or not to drink another?—Don’t!”

Advice on Tap is sponsored by the Hospitality Resource Alliance, one of the three groups in Western’s Campus Community Coalition. The Alliance is a collaboration between local residents in an effort to promote safe drinking in public. Their monthly meetings bring together local bar staff, the Washington State Liquor Control Board, Bellingham and Western’s University Police, as well as Bellingham’s Downtown Alliance for Music and Nightlife.
Lieutenant Blair Smith, LCB officer for Whatcom County, is among one of the many law enforcement officers involved in the HRA.

“We believe in the concept of community-oriented policing, and Bellingham is a great community that wants us to work together and reduce the problems through collaboration and mutual cooperation where possible,” Smith said.

Advice on Tap:

- Find a bouncer if a customer is bugging you.

- You must have your ID every time.

[caption id="attachment_4009" align="alignright" width="418" caption="Western student Mike Pond (left) and AS President Colin Watrin during an Advice on Tap campaign. Submission by Lyndie Case."][/caption]

- Bars have to cut you off if you are drunk.

- Tip your bartender, not your drink.

- Your friends reflect on you.

- Never start a fight inside or outside a bar.

-Take a cab home; it’s cheaper than a DUI.

- Can’t decide whether to drink another? Don't!

Lyndie Case, coordinator of the campus coalition, said that when the HRA first started it was simply trying to get everybody involved in downtown nightlife to come together and talk about how to ensure public safety.

“After a lot of that occurred, what the HRA was finding was that there were a small percentage of people in the bars that were causing problems,” Case said. “In addition, there is a group that is coming to the bars for the first time that don’t necessarily knowthe direction of how people are expected to act in a bar environment.”

These observations led to the creation of the Advice on Tap campaign.

“They wanted to do a campaign that would not only reach the people who were coming to bars for the first time, but also trying to capture those people who were perhaps problematic,” Case said.

The campaign also involves law enforcement, including extra Bellingham Police officers and LCB officers who monitor the downtown scene. Case said, the extra enforcement is not encouraging an “anti-going out to bars” campaign, but rather bar patrons having a fun and safe time without causing any problems.

“They’re really eager to get the word out to the patrons in a fun way, not in a confrontational way,” Case said. “They don’t want to be shaking their fingers or being anyone’s mom. They just want to make sure people understand the campaign.”

In addition to the Advice on Tap crew and extra law enforcement, the staff of several downtown bars can be seen handing out buttons and sporting the specially designed T-shirts on campaign nights. The campaign has more than 10 participating bars including Bellingham Bar and Grill, The Beaver Inn, Glow Nightclub, Rumors Cabaret, The Royal and The Wild Buffalo.

Brian Waller, owner of The Beaver Inn, is a member of the steering committee for the campus coalition and has been with the HRA from the very beginning.

“One of the main things I would hope most people get out of it is to take responsibility for their own actions while they’re in any establishment or walking out on the streets,” Waller said. “I got involved because the objective of the campaign is worthwhile.”

To get involved with Bellingham Nightlife: Advice on Tap or potentially become a crew member, contact Lyndie Case at Advice on Tap T-shirts will be sold in the Western Associated Students Bookstore throughout May.