CARBONDALE, IL (KTVI) – It’s been banned for more than a decade, but Tuesday night, Carbondale’s city council voted 4-2 to lift its Halloween bar ban.
Each year, three bars on a section of Illinois Avenue, known as the Strip, lose significant amounts of business when they’re forced to close down for the holiday. Now, many wonder if the reason for this ban is still relevant.
On Halloween in 2000, drunken revelers filled the streets and got violent. Police were forced to break up brawls and resort to tear gas. Video of the riots are still plastered all over the Internet.
The street party started as an innocent celebration in the 1970s, but grew increasingly violent in the 80s and 90s. By 2000, city leaders in the college town had enough, shutting down the street party and the bars. These businesses have been closed on Halloween ever since.
“People have long memories, and when something’s been traumatic, they tend to remember it for a very long time,” says Carbondale City Councilwoman Jane Adams.
But Valerie Turner, who just graduated Southern Illinois University this year, doesn’t remember the danger, just the disappointment.
“I wish I were able to experience a Halloween here,” she says, “You couldn’t really have fun on Halloween unless you went out of town.”
Since the ban, SIU students have adapted, celebrating in Carbondale the weekend before with an “Unofficial Halloween.” What’s also changed is the heart of student hangouts.
Adams explains, “One by one the bars have closed, the student housing, we’ve had a tremendous amount of new student housing over on the east side of campus.”
The councilwoman says the remaining bars on the Strip now cater to a different crowd: “They don’t attract lots of young people, so they aren’t people who would go out and ‘take the Strip.’”
Now, she feels these bars, Hangar 9, Stix and Sidetracks, are unnecessarily losing money, as are the restaurants on the Strip. It’s the main reason she voted to lift the ban.
Sidetracks Assistant Manager Court Woodruff says, “I’m pumped for it, I’m ready to go, see if it’s any different than the stories I’ve heard.”
It’ll soon be clear whether this experiment to lift the Halloween bar ban worked, but Turner feels SIU’S new “Unofficial Halloween” tradition will prove stronger than the violent one. “I don’t think anyone will riot, no,” she says.
Halloween will look different than it did decades ago. The bars will be open, but with heightened police presence. Additionally, the Strip, which is actually a state highway, will not be closed to vehicle traffic.