As word of the Kollege Klub suspension made its way down the line last Wednesday, the voices of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ren?e Zellweger echoed throughout Madison’s collective mind: “They had it coming. They had it coming. They only have themselves to blame.”
This is not an editorial board prone to fawning over Madison’s alcohol policy, but it’s hard to argue with them when it comes to the Kollege Klub. While it’s debatable whether the recent police crackdown on bars like Ram Head or Johnny O’s represented well-aligned law enforcement priorities, the constant subordination of the law by every Badger’s favorite bar — if every Badger were an athlete or Langdon resident — gave the committee no reason to take minor action.
The Kollege Klub’s history of misdeeds is well documented, be it in the student newspapers or the oral traditions of students past and present. Accusations of over-serving patrons, serving alcohol to minors and violence may feel like par for the course to a student, but they’re serious errors when you’re one of campus’ most visible bars.
Of all the offenses alleged by the police, none is more damning than a battery occurring on Feb. 8. Though the victim of the assault required medical assistance for facial wounds, no one at the Kollege Klub thought the fight warranted a call to the police. Even more, when officers asked for the video surveillance tape from the incident two days later, employees claimed it had already been taped over.
You just can’t do that. Surveillance cameras have one basic function, and that’s to serve as physical evidence in case something goes terribly wrong. Wedding receptions and episodes of “Friends” can be taped over; instances of battery cannot.
In doing this, the Kollege Klub showed extreme disregard for both the intentions of law enforcement and the safety of their patrons. While one would like to think that most people would simply avoid bars with histories of violent activity, there’s at least some comfort in knowing that if someone does get his face beaten in, employees will call the cops and cooperate with any potential investigation.
There is simply no excuse for the Kollege Klub’s actions, and while a suspension should feel like a win for both the police and those concerned with student safety, there’s something off about the punishment: Namely, the suspension covers winter break. Ald. Julia Kerr, District 13, the one City Council member who voted against the sanctions, did so because she felt they did not send a strong enough message, and she’s spot-on. Allowing a bar to serve its suspension while much of the student population is away is like being grounded on the one weekend your family visits the grandma who despises shaggy hair and Protestantism. It’s a slap on the wrist. And while there’s a fine line between sending a message with a suspension and crippling a business — what likely happened to Ram Head — the Kollege Klub has the built-in clientele and name recognition to weather a fair punishment.
It’s a shame it had to come to this, but the students deserve a safer bar and the city needs a more compliant business. With any luck, the Kollege Klub will see this as an opportunity to revamp their image. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even learn how to spell.