On Campus

Worst idea ever? Or a good way to pay your tuition?

Edmonton bar gives students $20 just for showing up. MADD is mad.

Can’t afford to go drinking? Well, if you’re a student in Edmonton, you can’t afford not to. A bar there is reportedly luring students by offering them free cash–just for showing up.

The bar–called Union Hall–announced Student Night last Thursday. Students who show up before 10pm will be given $20 in cold hard cash.

The owner of the bar, Jesse James, called the move a “recession buster.” He told the Edmonton Journal it wasn’t a intended to circumvent minimum drink price legislation brought into Alberta recently.

However, the Canadian Press reported that James was billing the promotion as “battling back” against the new regulations and he complained about having to cancel previous promotions like 10 cent shooters. “They’ve really tied our hands promotionally, a little bit,” he told CP. “The only thing we can give people, legally … is money. So we’re doing it.”

The government says it is not illegal for bars to give out free cash.

Predictably, MADD is upset. The Edmonton Journal story quoted spokesperson Joan Macleod as saying it was “the stupidest idea I’ve heard in a long time.”

“Anyone who thinks this is a good idea has never lost someone to impaired driving,” she told the Journal. “To me, it just encourages everybody to do it.”(Bit of a logical leap there, Macleod.) Also predictably, the article went on to state the details of Macleod’s daughter’s death after being hit by an intoxicated driver 18 years ago.

CP had a more rational argument for why the bar’s promotion might be a bad idea for students: giving away free money encourages students to drink more than they had originally planned and the legislation was intended to curb excessive or binge drinking. Fair enough.

But the most obvious reason that Jesse James’ free money promotion is a dumb idea is that there is no obligation to spend the money in his bar, which is why other bars that have tried the free money stunt have quickly canceled it, according to Lynn Hutchings-Mah of the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission. “They quickly found out that people were coming to collect free money and then going home with it.”

So, Edmonton students: if you’re short of cash this year get over to Union Hall and collect your money while you still can.