With springtime comes bar tour season to Penn State, and over the years, I have represented more than a few bar tour casualties. Bar tours can be a lot of fun if you pace yourself and drink responsibly, but if you drink too much and get out of control, you could find yourself charged with the likes of DUI, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct or criminal mischief, and even assault. And don't even think about using a fake ID on a bar tour. Fake IDs won't get you into a State College bar, but they get you into the back of a police car, while hundreds of people walk by looking at you in handcuffs.
There are several factors, which routinely lead to out-of-control drinking on bar tours. First and foremost, is the groupthink mentality. When everyone else is doing shots, it seems like the thing to do. Also, a bar tour, by its very nature, is always on the move. You tend to only stay at any given bar for a drink or two. This creates pressure on those accustomed to drinking at a slow pace to hurry up and chug, so they are not left behind.
In my opinion, far too many bar tours start in the afternoon, with no stop for dinner, factored into the bar tour schedule. Thus, people continue to drink and drink as their stomachs are becoming empty. Drinking on an empty stomach is a tried and true method of getting sick enough to walk into a public drunkenness charge or earn an expensive ambulance ride to Mount Nittany Medical Center.
Yet another recurring bar tour theme is novice drinkers failing to keep up with the big dogs. Bar tours tend to take place at the end of the semester when everyone is done with their work. A certain amount of people will participate in bar tours who have been stuck in a lab all semester or otherwise have been far to busy to get their drink on. Now that their finals are over and projects completed, they want some well-earned stress relief. When these people go on a bar tour, it is the equivalent of a couch potato trying to run a marathon without any training. It often does not end well.
My advice is to go out and have a good time on your spring bar tours, especially if you are a graduating senior. You deserve it. You will cherish some of those memories with your Penn State friends for the rest of your life. Just be sure to pace yourself and never drink on an empty stomach. You know your own body, so do not let other people dictate how much and how fast you drink. There is nothing wrong with politely declining a shot.
Matt McClenahen is a Penn State alumnus and criminal defense Attorney in State College, PA, with extensive experience defending those charged with alcohol-related crimes. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Alcohol-Offenses-DUI.shtml