Local Officials Look To Tame Picnic Day

citycatThe Sacramento Bee this morning reports on a closed-door meeting held on Monday with the Davis police, business representatives, students leaders and city staff members.  According to Gary Sandy, the university’s director of local government relations, the group has decided to form a task force to fix Picnic Day.

Mr. Sandy told the Bee, “If Picnic Day is to survive, it will have to change radically.”  He continued, “The message will be sent, loud and clear, that Picnic Day is not party day.  This ought to be a celebration of UC Davis and the Davis community, not a day for drunkenness and rowdiness.”

That means the event should become smaller and more manageable, they need more police, and the toughest task of all is that drinking and partying need to be curtailed and discouraged.

The first of these steps probably came last week when Charlie Swanson, the owner of the Davis Graduate came forward announcing drastic changes to the Graduate’s Picnic Day policies.

The biggest of these changes are that alcohol would not be served before 11 a.m. and they would end discounts for alcohol during this day.  That puts an end to the tradition of $1 beers starting at 6 am to the first thousand customers.

And while the Graduate points out that they were not the center of the trouble on Picnic Day, there were no arrests, fights, or other problems specifically associated with their premises, the message sent to students poly-royal-riot-4-30-90and others with the sale of alcohol at that early hour was clear.  The message was to start drinking early and that this would be a drinking event.

However, even with the new Graduate policy and hopefully downtown bars following suit, and even with a new task force, this remains a tough endeaver to tame an event as institutionalized as Picnic Day.

I was in high school in 1990 in San Luis Obispo when riots broke out at Poly Royal.  There were two days of rioting that led to 127 arrests, over 100 injuries, 14 police injuries along with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.  My mind is seared with the licquor store near campus being destroyed after they ran out of alcohol, the crowd chanting, “Free Beer.”

The result was the cancelation of Poly Royal which had been a huge two-day campus wide event showcasing departments and local talent.  It used to draw in 100,000 people from across the state.  I remember each year as a student going on a field trip for a day in April.  In more recent years, they have brought it back in a scaled down version.

Here is where the difficulty comes into play.  First, Poly Royal was not an event centered around drinking.  It was a showcasing of the campus.  It was an event that school children would go to, it was an event that families would go to, and it was obviously an event that students and faculty would spend countless hours preparing for.

So yes, I agree with those who suggest that there needs to be a focus on activity that do not revolve around drinking.  The problem is that any large gathering of people in a festival setting is likely to lead to students partying and when large groups party, there is the potential for problems.

The other quandary for those on campus and in the community, is that this community is looking to put on events that have regional draws and Picnic Day was one of the very few that did that.  So how do you draw a large number of people from the region without making Davis the focal point for drinking and partying?

To me this is the problem that a task force is going to face.  They need to radically change the culture of the event without taking away from the tradition or the positive aspects of the event.

However, here are a few suggestions.  First, while I agree strongly with the cancellation of the 6 am beer sales, I think that is probably not enough.  The city needs agreement from stores and bars to limit alcohol sales city wide.  That will not prevent students and others from importing alcohol from out of town, but it will make it more difficult.  Alcohol needs to be less available.

Second, there needs to be activities all day that (A) does not revolve around drinking and (B) that brings in a less volatile mix of people.  By way of example, no problems were reported during the Whole Earth Festival last weekend.  The reason being the type of people who are attracted to such events are not likely to cause problems.  Thus Picnic Day may want to look toward art and cultural events to bring in a different mix than usual Picnic Day crowd.

Third, law enforcement needs to come up with a strategy.  Davis has a small police force, that means they need to as they have rely on help from surrounding jurisdictions.  By having bars limit alcohol sales, one result will be the movement of partyers from the downtown to the neighborhoods.  That is good in that it will spread out the problems, but bad in terms of trying to police activities.  The police know the areas where there are problems with parties, even a scaled down event will be an incentive to party.  Police need to be ready and we need to give them the tools to be able to keep the piece.

Thus my strategy would be to push the drinkers out of the core area by limiting alcohol sales at the bar and to bring less volatile groups of people into the core by having the kinds of activities that will bring families and other community and regional citizens to the downtown.

Will that kind of strategy be implemented and would it succeed?  Stay tuned.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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28 thoughts on “Local Officials Look To Tame Picnic Day”

  1. biddlin

    I am not clear on how “movement of partyers from the downtown to the neighborhoods” accomplishes anything other than protecting commercial interests at the expense of families. I would also guess that more underage drinking and the consequent behaviors will occur at private parties, than in the ABC supervised confines of public houses. It seems to me easier for police to patrol an event confined to a limited area. Marketing to families is a good idea. Nothing provides more security than regular folks gathered in sufficient numbers to keep an eye on things, whether at Picnic Day or any other time. Something else that makes a difference is police acting in a timely manner to dispatch troublemakers, wherever they may be from. That would seem an easier matter in a centralized event area. Finally, if the alumni, students and public want this event to continue, they must take personal responsibility for their own behavior and the safety of others, drinking in moderation and not allowing others to get out of hand and yes, ERM,stepping up to protect others from assault if necessary, although if police are pro-active, that is less likely. Picnic Day has been a community event as long as I can remember and it will take the community to save it.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    My thought is that it de-concentrates them, disperses them. These problems usually arise when a large group of drunk people end up in the same place. I heard descriptions that drunk men basically took over downtown.

    Also it separates the drinkers from a plentiful sources of alcohol, the bars.

    I’m not suggesting that a bunch of drunk and out of control parties is the way to go. I just don’t have a good answer off the top of my head for dealing with them. My hope is by limiting alcohol in the core areas, it sends the message this isn’t a party day.

  3. rusty49

    Just a few small tweaks are needed, otherwise leave Picnic Day alone.
    I’m getting sick of this nanny society, everytime you turn there’s another regulation being put in place.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    The students don’t really participate in the parade anymore, it seems. It would be nice if student groups (and community groups, for that matter) would actually build floats for the parade. I can only recall a few this year – The Vet school, and the Odd Fellows and Falun Gong(?) (I’m not even sure if they are a local group.) A group of people/kids walking with a sign is not a float. Except for the Aggie Band at the beginning, we don’t even have marching bands anymore. 30+ years ago the float contest was much more competitive and creative. It would be a bigger draw and keep people out of the bars in the morning hours and attract more families downtown. (Also, get rid of the stupid vendors rolling their carts and selling crap along the parade route.)

  5. rusty49

    Not many bands marched this year, don’t know why. Last couple of years Oregon State, Humboldt State, I think UCLA and a few others would march in the parade. Let’s not let a few rowdies ruin the day for everyone else by over regulating.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    As unpopular and prudish as it sounds to some, how about a “dry” Picnic Day, where no alchohol in town is served? That would go a long way to tamp down problems. Doesn’t mean people wouldn’t smuggle alcholic beverages in, doesn’t mean private parties wouldn’t serve alcohol, but it would go a long way to making alchohol not so much a part and parcel of Picnic Day.

    The bars can get together and make up some nonalcholic cocktails with clever names to sell – such as Picnic Punch, Aggie Slush, Cow Juice, etc.

    Then UCD and the City of Davis need to make sure there are plenty of family friendly events to attend all day and even into the evening – much as on July 4th. Businesses themselves can create activities that could be a draw to make money, activities that don’t involve alcohol but are family friendly.

    A message needs to be sent, loud and clear, Picnic Day is a family event, not a drinking fest. If you want to drink, don’t come. Make next year a probation year. If it doesn’t work out and problems like this year occur again, then perhaps Picnic Day has to be cancelled for a while.

    For those naysayers who don’t want the serving of alcohol limited/curtailed, THINK. A police officer was injured, girls were groped (and who knows how many were raped but were too ashamed to report it), some businesses had to close early, a shot was fired at someone, a woman was beaten while trying to go into a store, etc, etc, etc. Do we really want to encourage this kind of behavior in our town? Or would it be better to take some drastic steps now to curtail it, then loosen up a bit in later years if things calm down? Lest we forget, ultimately, Picnic Day itself is at risk of being cancelled altogether.

    One final point. The police were overwhelmed – yet there were officers from UCD, West Sac, Woodland, Winters, Yolo Sheriff’s Office, CHP. We have only limited law enforcement resources. To say there were not enough police on duty is not facing the reality that there are only so many police to go around. And while the police from other jurisdictions were here on Picnic Day, other jurisdictions were left undefended.

  7. biddlin

    ERM-Like it or not, this country was settled and founded by hard drinking people. The Pilgrims loaded more beer than water on the Mayflower. And, there is some evidence that they were put off at Plymouth, rather than Virginia, because the ship’s crew wished to make sure they had enough beer to consume on the return voyage. The first businesses established on the frontier were taverns. The economy of our region is bound to oenology. Anheuser-Busch is a major player here also. I have serious doubts that university students ever need encouragement to drink and believe pressure to curtail drinking might result in greater consumption. You repeat and enhance your previous assertions of the abuse of women and I must again ask,”Where were their neighbors and what did they do to stop the outrage?” This did not happen in the flicker of an eye. Given the estimated size of the crowd, the police were obviously not prepared, but they also waited too long to start moving folks out of town. The solution for that problem is to issue event passes to out of town alumni or others in advance of the event, perhaps making a limited number available early on Picnic Day. Then limit access to residents and credentialed guests. Have specific start and end times and come end time, sweep the streets. Let’s punish the thugs responsible, not the vast majority of participants.

  8. Steve Hayes

    Davis has gone from a dry city, to a wet city, and ultimately to a party city as described in my May 7th letter (below) published in the Enterprise. In my opinion, bar and club activities downtown on Friday night doomed the family activities scheduled for Saturday AM on Picnic Day 2010. This systemic problem will be difficult to resolve.

    Picnic Day 2010, Decades in the Making
    Bad behavior resulting from excessive consumption of readily available alcohol by young adults was apparently a major contributor to the disastrous Picnic Day of 2010. However, this condition didn’t happen overnight. My wife and I have lived in Davis since 1974, and we offer our perspective on this situation as follows:
    •During much of the 1970’s, the City of Davis was “dry”, and one had to drive outside of City limits to purchase alcohol. As a result, Davis was a quiet, friendly, and family oriented university town throughout the day and evening. Downtown businesses closed by 1000 PM at the latest, and late-night partying and excessive drinking were rare activities. We found Picnic Days to be uplifting and positive family events, and our young children especially enjoyed the parades.
    •During the prosperous 1980’s and 1990’s, the City was “wet”, and alcohol was readily available in supermarkets and stores throughout the City. During this period, numerous restaurants and specialized businesses opened in Davis, and downtown became diverse and lively during the day and evening. Although any of the newer restaurants served alcohol, most closed by 1000 PM when the other downtown businesses closed. As a result, downtown Davis remained relatively safe and quiet late at night. Picnic Days during this period were also more crowded and less orderly, but were still relatively family friendly and positive. However, the character of the City was changing as late-night partying and excessive drinking were becoming progressively more common throughout the City.
    •During the challenging 2000’s, the character of many restaurants within downtown Davis changed. These businesses continued to operate as restaurants during the day and evening, but converted to bars and clubs at night. Many of these bars and clubs now remain open until midnight, long after other businesses have closed within downtown Davis. As a result, they have become an appealing draw for students and young adults throughout the area, and the City of Davis has become known as a party town. On weekends in particular, youths line up for blocks to join the “party” at the more popular local bars and clubs. When these bars and clubs finally close, droves of these young adults wander throughout our darkened City looking to party further if possible. The increase in late night and early morning crime incidents within Davis further confirm this characterization. Picnic Day 2010 showcased the potential for further mayhem if conditions downtown continue to deteriorate.
    In summary, we believe that the conditions leading to the disastrous Picnic Day of 2010 have been building for decades. If the residents within the City and the University don’t strive to restore the fine character of our City, then Picnic Day as a positive and family friendly event will be lost forever.

  9. Ryan Kelly

    I believe that the two brothers involved in the fight that resulted in injuring the Davis Police Officer were both UC Davis alumni from the Bay Area.

  10. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: “ERM-Like it or not, this country was settled and founded by hard drinking people. The Pilgrims loaded more beer than water on the Mayflower.”

    They used to burn witches at the stake too, but we don’t still do that to my knowledge. Bad analogy.

    biddlin: “You repeat and enhance your previous assertions of the abuse of women and I must again ask,”Where were their neighbors and what did they do to stop the outrage?” This did not happen in the flicker of an eye. Given the estimated size of the crowd, the police were obviously not prepared, but they also waited too long to start moving folks out of town.”

    Blame the passersby who may have been unaware of or could do nothing about the groping/rape/fighting/assault/shooting taking place, blame the police from six jurisdictions to handle an overly intoxicated crowd of 75,000? But don’t blame the purveyors of alchohol who fueled the fire? Your logic escapes me…

    biddlin: “Then limit access to residents and credentialed guests. Have specific start and end times and come end time, sweep the streets. Let’s punish the thugs responsible, not the vast majority of participants.”

    There was at least one UCD student arrested by the Davis Police, and problems with some UCD students on campus. And how many of those “thugs” were friends of UCD students and invited to come? It is not clear to me or the police what percentage of the crime was committed by out-to-towners. But one thing is clear – bars advertising cheap beer at 6am is an invitation for out-of-town thugs to come and party hardy. Now who is at fault for that phenomenon? And I might add, a committee/police asked the bars not to serve cheap alcohol early for that very reason, and the committee/police were ignored – to the cost/safety of the citizens of Davis and students of UCD.

  11. roger bockrath

    So it rather sounds like the art loving, pot smokers at the Whole Earth Festival stayed mellow and had a lot of fun while the beer drinking, football watching yahoos who showed up for Picnic Day raised a lot of hell ruining the event for a lot of people

    Imagine how things will change if the California voters, in their infinite wisdom decide to decriminalize pot in June. Taxes generated from the sale of California’s largest dollar value crop could be used to support adequate policing, instead of for jailing law abiding citizens. Amsterdam-like pot cafes could compete with bars in our downtown. Hungry pot smokers would flood the restaurants, generating more tax dollars. And stoned Picnic Day partiers would reduce the need for police because when you are stoned you don’t go around looking for a fight.
    The June election is not very far off and the liquor lobby has yet to organize it’s opposition to decriminalization of recreational pot. Something about not being able to survive the debate about the relative merits and dangers of pot versus alcohol

    If you look on line you will find statements like this one:

    Passage of the measure, by no means certain, would make California the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana. Backers believe the state could be at the vanguard of a national movement toward decriminalizing the drug.
    “This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has spearheaded the ballot initiative.
    “Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources and making criminals out of countless law-abiding citizens,” he said. Passage of the measure, by no means certain, would make California the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana. Backers believe the state could be at the vanguard of a national movement toward decriminalizing the drug.
    I stropped smoking pot years ago because it really bothers my allergies and because of the need to concentrate on technical things that I really enjoy. But I know a whole lot of responsible, law- abiding adults who enjoy a good pot buzz. And none of them showed up at Picnic Day looking to cause trouble.

  12. nvn8v

    I think most of you are missing the point. If you close the bars, you close the only places in Davis where there are ANY limits regarding a persons age and how much alcohol they can/should consume. I’ve been a student at UCD since 2006 and can assure you that 95% of house parties make no distinction between ‘minors’ and anyone else. This is where your ‘problem’ is… not with the Grad, Froggys, Vitos, Woodsctocks, etc… They all have a very effective system of controls to keep things reasonable. Taking the bars out of the equation will only make the house parties bigger, more numerous, and harder to police.

    In my opinion, people will drink on picnic day no matter what. That is the essence of the day for the undergraduate population of Davis.

    (The best solution, not that any of you would want to hear it, would be to make the drinking age 18. Much like legalization of MJ, it would reduce the status of binge drinking as a ‘cool’ thing to do and therefore reduce the problems.)

  13. civil discourse

    “Geez, I hope some of the posters here aren’t in the decision making process. Talk about a bunch of Quakers.”

    Don’t forget Mormons, Christians, Muslims and others in your criticism. Why limit the name-calling?

    Absurdity aside, it isn’t a god-given or country-founding right to drink. If it is, then you gotta fight for it. If you fight for it, chances are you deserve it and are responsible because you care about something other than how to score another Bud Light.

    Leave the drunks out to dry and limit the exposure to alcohol. Those that want it will get it, responsibly.

    Jeesh, what a bunch of jocks.

  14. rusty49

    Someone got mugged on 3rd and B St. the other night at 11pm.

    I guess that means we should institute Marshall Law and close the downtown at 10pm every night.

    It isn’t your God-given or country-founding right to be out after 10pm.

    Where does it stop? When does it all become too much oversight?

  15. biddlin

    “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.” (Benjamin Franklin)
    “Wine is necessary for life.” (Thomas Jefferson)
    “My manner of living is plain…a glass of wine and a bit of mutton.” (George Washington)
    Just three of the founders who would argue that drinking is a “God given right.” civil discourse. BTW rusty 49, Quakers are not forbidden the use of alcohol(or tobacco), though many abstain and it is not allowed in meeting houses.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    Ironic how both students themselves and at least one bar owner (of the Graduate) believe serving cheap liquor at 6 am contributed to the problem on Picnic Day, as did a committee/police who sent all purveyors of alcohol a letter prior to Picnic Day not to serve cheap booze early in the morning. If the current Picnic Day committee that met on May 10 sees fit to regulate and reduce the selling of alcohol on Picnic Day next year, and things calm down, it will be a pretty good indication the committee has a good handle on the problem, no? Otherwise, Picnic Day may be doomed…

  17. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]Someone got mugged on 3rd and B St. the other night at 11pm.

    I guess that means we should institute Marshall Law and close the downtown at 10pm every night.

    It isn’t your God-given or country-founding right to be out after 10pm.

    Where does it stop? When does it all become too much oversight? [/quote]

    Let me ask you, do you see a difference between changing policies for one incident (as you describe above) as above to a pattern of behavior.

    I don’t agree with going alcohol free, but I do think limiting alcohol on a day to send the message that this is not a drinking, get drunk, grope women, trash the town event, is not a bad thing. Things have gone too far and we did not have the resources to handle the scope of the problem.

    Are you suggesting that the events at picnic were not a problem? And if that is not the case, what would you do?

  18. biddlin

    David, there is a huge middle ground between E.Roberts Musser and Gunrocks in this discussion. What I find most disturbing is the lack of critical thinking and common sense. You would have local bars and liquor stores limit sales on picnic day, even though the supervised atmosphere of the bars prohibits underage drinking and overindulgence and you admit that your approach moves the partying out of a core area to the neighborhoods and makes policing more difficult. I submit another unintended consequence would be people leaving Davis to purchase alcohol and driving back with a few drinks under their belts. I would hope that no event in Davis is”a drinking, get drunk, grope women, trash the town event,” and frankly continue to be shocked that in Davis apparently no one stands up to protect their neighbors from assault, but must conclude from Elaine’s continued comments that this must is the case. I should, in the interest of transparency, advise you that the slightly grizzled chap with the cane may not be so tolerant of misbehavior toward anyone, especially ladies. A result of my upbringing in logging camps and boom towns.”If you want to walk around downtown and vandalize businesses and try to grab co-eds ya-ya’s I have a problem with it. If it’s one person, arrest them. If it’s an entire area, then shut it down.” Then wouldn’t keeping the event confined to a limited area make such enforcement easier? In this matter and so many other pressing issues, thorough and sober discussion and reflection are more likely to produce the desired result than precipitous reaction.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    Biddlin: One possibility is that curtailing drinking at the bars, where most of the problems seemed to have been centered, especially in the downtown bars, will simply force the drinkers to their homes where they will have less controls and they will get more out of control.

    The other possibility is that it will send the message that this really isn’t a drinking event. The people who are likely to party in private residences are locals and that might mean, might, being the operative word, that there could be fewer problems from out of towners and the students who live here may get drunk, but they also have to reside here after wards and that might curtail their conduct.

  20. rusty49

    Why is Picnic Day the problem anyway, they don’t serve alcohol on the campus? So if UCD has a home football game, where they also don’t serve alcohol, and parties spill onto the streets are we to consider cancelling football? So for that matter, any event that might bring alot of people to Davis could create some problems so maybe Davis shouldn’t ever have any event here because there might be a few rowdies causing problems.
    For a liberal city there sure are alot of stick-in-the-muds.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    So you’re arguing that the reported problems are not something we have to worry about? They are just a few rowdies and our existing resources and law enforcement can take care of it? I’m just trying to understand where you are coming from before I figure out if there’s a point to proceeding any further.

  22. nvn8v

    Once again, I think the main problem is being missed. Indeed, the majority of police complaints came from the ‘downtown’ area. But, if you look closer you’ll see most of those complaints were not at bars but rather the apartment complexes/houses between downtown and campus. (ie University ave) House parties are the root cause of out of control rowdiness, not bars.

  23. rusty49

    David, I’m just saying that to cancel Picnic Day or to make Davis dry on that day is going way over the top. Yes, a little tweaking wouldn’t hurt, but nothing too draconian.

  24. biddlin

    nvn8v-I think you’re right about the house parties being a major source of problem drinkers. I think that’s an issue that would be best dealt with by peer counseling and informational seminars on binge drinking. I realize that life in general is less cordial these days, but this is a case where mentoring from older students can make a big difference. I also think enforcement by ABC would be appropriate. It is illegal to charge for alcohol without a license and always illegal to provide alcohol to minors. Start enforcing those laws now and by next picnic day house parties may be smaller and safer.

  25. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: ” Start enforcing those laws now and by next picnic day house parties may be smaller and safer.”

    But still allow cheap beer to be sold beginning 6 am? I’m all for enforcing laws to make house parties smaller and safer, but from the evidence a lot of the troublemakers came from out of town (what percentage we really don’t know, but of the arrests by DPD, only one was a UCD student).

  26. biddlin

    E Roberts Musser-I don’t think you’re going to have much success getting West Sacramento, Woodland or Fairfield to curtail liquor sales on a given day. As noted one of my concerns is that people will drive to and from these locations, returning to Davis with a few drinks under their belts. You are correct in stating that we don’t know how many of the miscreants were local and imported. What we do know is that most of the calls for police and fire came from house parties and that no calls or reports of fights or any problems came from The Davis Graduate. You continue to demonize the legitimate business people, who operate within the law to insure that no underage drinking goes on, and who generated no calls for services, while virtually absolving the actual rioters and assailants by blaming “purveyors of alcohol, who fueled the fire.” It is not at all clear to me that the Graduate, or any other bar was responsible for any of the disturbances. I have some difficulty imagining bleary eyed partiers deciding to go to Davis at 6:00 am for a dollar beer and then staying up until the wee hours of the following morning raising havoc, but perhaps you know hardier drinkers than do I.

  27. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: “You continue to demonize the legitimate business people, who operate within the law to insure that no underage drinking goes on, and who generated no calls for services, while virtually absolving the actual rioters and assailants by blaming “purveyors of alcohol, who fueled the fire.””

    At no time did I ever absolve actual rioters/assailants. I just don’t want to “assist” the miscreants by providing them cheap alcohol at 6 am – which “advertises” Picnic Day as a huge drunken party fest. It will be interesting to see if The Graduate’s offer to not sell cheap alcohol, and to not sell until 11 am will be honored by other businesses next year; what solutions the Picnic Day Task Force will come up with; and how Picnic Day goes next year. I suspect everyone would pretty much agree Picnic Day cannot continue as it occurred this year…

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