Thirty-four Davis businesses have signed a 13-point Picnic Day Community Covenant, agreeing to stall alcohol sales until 11 a.m. and forego drink specials on the day of the event.
According to Joy Cohan, the director of the Davis Downtown Business Association, the goal is 100 percent participation from all 115 Alcohol Beverage Control license holders in Davis. Cohan said that interest in the covenant is on the rise.
“People remembered challenges of Picnic Day last year and are thinking [about what they can] do as an ABC license holder to improve safety and send the right message,” Cohan said.
At this point, all targeted businesses have been contacted about the covenant via e-mail or postal mail. DDBA is currently in the process of contacting businesses downtown in person, while the Davis Chamber of Commerce is contacting those outside the downtown area.
Cohan said that participation is voluntary for the businesses and there will be no consequences for those that do not sign. The ones that do, however, will be highlighted in an advertising campaign during the weeks leading up to Picnic Day that will encourage people to patronize those businesses year-round.
“We are trying to, as much as possible, keep this as a business-to-business kind of request,” Cohan said. “It’s business owners helping other business owners put their best foot forward on Picnic Day. We’re trying to do that and trying to keep it positive.”
The Davis Graduate, which opened at 6 a.m. on Picnic Day last year, is among the businesses that have signed. However, Charlie Swanson, president of the corporation, said he has not had any problems on Picnic Day in the last five years.
“I heard [from] so many people that it had gotten bad. When I saw the arrest reports, I thought that if people think me not serving beer early in the morning will change this behavior and I can help, then I’ll do it,” Swanson said.
The Davis Graduate will not be selling its first 1,000 beers for a dollar each this year, though Swanson said he still believes bars are only a small part of the problem. Off sale retailers, such as Rite Aid and Safeway, sell much more alcohol than bars and also lend themselves more easily to unregulated minor alcohol consumption.
The Target Corporation is the only major company to sign the covenant thus far. The Rite Aid and Safeway corporations could not be reached for comment.
This is why Olive Drive Market manager, Shuresh Kumar, said he is still undecided about signing the covenant.
“The thing is that they should have everyone sign, not just the small stores. Rite Aid is right across the street from the dorms, are they going to make them sign? I don’t mind signing if [all businesses] are for it, but it should be fair,” Kumar said.
Ketmoree and Little Prague, both of which have not signed the covenant, declined to comment.
The Davis Police Department is also working with the DDBA to encourage businesses to sign the covenant.
They met this week with the district administrator of the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control’s Sacramento office, Lori Ajax, to plan training on responsible sales of alcoholic beverages for licensees in the area.
Ajax said that, as on other years, the department would be sending investigators to help Davis police with law enforcement on Picnic Day, though more will be present this year than in the past.
“Last year we had two investigators working and we thought the problems would be more in the day, but there ended up being more in the evening time. That’s when we were contacted by several community members that said, ‘hey, we need to do something here.’ We want to be part of promoting a safe and fun event, too, because I don’t think anyone wants to see it go away,” Ajax said.
ASUCD is also listed as a supporter of the covenant.
ASUCD President Jack Zwald said in an e-mail that though there was no formal vote, he had personally expressed support for the arrangement in order to mitigate problems from last year’s event.
Picnic Day Chair Charlie Colato was the only official student member of the Picnic Day Working Group that drafted the covenant and said he supports the covenant.
“If you talk to people who have only heard about Picnic Day, they think that it is only a day when everybody gets drunk,” he said. “I think that the covenant is not saying that you can’t drink, but it’s trying to change the culture of ‘let’s get drunk as early as possible.'”
The members of the Picnic Day committee have made their own efforts toward students, as well, posting a pledge on their website for students to commit to “responsible behavior” during the event.
Some students, such as Yesenia Barajas, a junior English and African studies double major, agree with what the covenant is trying to achieve.
“I think since Picnic Day tends to be geared toward families there’s a point in having the covenant, because drinking shouldn’t be encouraged if we advertise it as family-friendly and expect to have families on campus,” Barajas said.
Senior environmental science and management major, Karen Askeland, however, is not sure how effective the covenant will be.
“Well, it’s kind of sad because a lot of people like to go to The Grad at 6 a.m., but I think people will just drink at home and then go after,” she said. “It’s kind of a tradition to get up really early and drink, so it’s unfortunate if we can’t.”
Other stipulations of the covenant include: providing low-alcohol and alcohol-free beverages, providing food when possible when alcohol is served, maintaining proper lighting and not altering the seating and table arrangements from regular business hours.
MELISSA FREEMAN can be reached at email@example.com.