Five states raise drinking age to 21

Laws raising the legal drinking age to 21 went into effect in five new states Monday, triggering last-minute booze buying sprees and a rampage by students at the University of North Carolina.

North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Texas became the latest states to avoid the loss of federal highway funds by passing laws banning the sale of alcohol to people under age 21.


The Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota laws allow people who turned 19 years old prior to Sept. 1 to continue drinking.

The Wisconsin border bars that have attracted 19- and 20-year-olds from Illinois are expected to close down because officials anticipate the new law will reduce border-hopping between the two states.

Illinois has limited alcohol sales to people 21 and older for several years -- sending 19- and 20-year-olds from the Chicago area pouring into Wisconsin, where they could legally drink.


'Drinking by young people under 21 will now move from the bars to the cars,' said Gil Meisgeier, president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin. Meisgeier believes the new law will prompt underage people to drink more because it is cheaper to get a bottle of liquor or carryout six-pack of beer than buy the same amount at a licensed tavern.

Students at two universities in North Carolina went on last-minute booze buying sprees and students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rioted Sunday night to protest the new law.

Chapel Hill police arrested at least 20 people and authorities said windows were broken and trash cans were set afire during the rampage, but no one was hurt and authorities said there was no major property damage..

Lisa Lewis, an employee of the College Beverage Co. near North Carolina State in Raleigh reported brisk last-minute sales and added, 'Nineteen- and 20-year-olds came in with duffel bags and stocked up.'

In Iowa, officials said the change in the drinking age will strain state coffers by cutting liquor tax revenues as much as $5.4 million over the next two years.

'Bar owners are a bit nervous about the effect the new law will have on their business,' said Mike Donahue of Iowa City, former manager of The Fieldhouse, a tavern frequented by University of Iowa students.


A bartender at Granddaddy's, an Ames bar popular with Iowa State University students, said that establishment is planning to lure the older consumer, but 'I wouldn't be surprised if we see a big drop in business.'

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission estimated 500,000 19-and 20-year-olds were cut off when the legal drinkingage climbed from 19 to 21 at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Mike Cox, a spokesman for the Division of Public Safety, said the increase in the age requirments means -- theoretically -- a decrease in the number of alcohol-related accidents.

'Six percent of the drunk drivers (arrested by DPS) in 1985 were 19 and 20 year olds,' Cox said. 'And the same ages account for only 3.9 percent of the licensed drivers. In theory, there will be fewer drunk driving arrests when the law goes into effect.'

At Cheers, a Dallas club many Southern Methodist University students frequent, one student said the new law would be little more than an inconvenience.

'You'll still be able to get alcohol, just not walk in like we used to,' said a 19-year-old SMU student who identified himself only as Kevin.

In Minnesota, Greg Dowler, St. Paul, turned 19 Tuesday, missing the cutoff.


'I've waited 19 years,' Dowler complained Monday. 'All my friends are of age. I'll get left out of a lot now.'

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