Purdue and the city of West Lafayette likely are conspiring to kill Breakfast Club.
Breakfast Club, a Purdue staple, is a famous longstanding tradition in which students dress up in costumes and hit the campus bars on mornings of home football games and the Saturday of Grand Prix. With bars opening at 7 a.m., the event attracts a heavy police presence and is considered a must-do before graduation.
During the past 12 years, the tradition has been wrongfully targeted by the city of West Lafayette and the Purdue administration. The city sees the festivities as a liability; Purdue is concerned about the University’s image. Actions have fought the student tradition.
In February 2001, the city approved State Street Commons, now home to Mad Mushroom Pizza. A restaurant can operate in the building with a liquor license but “is restricted in the times that alcoholic beverages may be sold … to avoid the phenomena of early morning breakfast parties with alcohol,” according to West Lafayette’s city council minutes from Feb. 5, 2001.
The looming development at State Street and Northwestern Avenue has similar restrictions. Its zoning bans live music and limits alcohol sales between 1 a.m. and 11 a.m., forcing a new bar to be closed during Breakfast Club and two hours before the 3 a.m. last call of other campus bars.
The Lafayette Journal and Courier reported that at a City Council meeting last July, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis cut off a student voicing concerns about the development’s alcohol and music restrictions and the negative effect it would have on campus nightlife. Dennis justified the restrictions as reasonable limits needed for safety, but The Exponent reported it was to prevent another Breakfast Club venue.
Councilor Eddie VanBogaert, D-District 1, supported the development and said in an interview with The Exponent last July that such restrictions could harm a business’ ability to compete in the Chauncey Village setting.
“Look at Boiler Market. It has been limited in a similar way, and it has not done as well as it could have,” VanBogaert said. Boiler Market closed last summer.
When West Lafayette annexes the campus, students as new residents should be vocal to prevent these restrictions. No city or state has the right to keep businesses from having live music or decide when it’s appropriate to serve drinks.
Purdue’s administration has never condoned Breakfast Club as a festivity that unifies the student body in a way no Grand Alternative event can. The administration has voiced little opinion on Breakfast Club but has taken action against it. In 2001, the dean of students took control of the privately run Grand Alternative and turned it into a collection of events.
This year, more than 50 events are funded by $15,000 from the Student Activity Fee. Similar grants occur annually. The Grand Alternative website says it’s “a program designed to offer substance-free events to the Purdue campus community during Grand Prix weekend” and is intended “to help provide solutions to high-risk and underage drinking problems.”
Purdue should let our image stand on our academics and research achievements. Grand Alternative creates outstanding events, but its definition has faced scrutiny for creating division and, while using students’ fees, indirectly condemning students who don’t deserve condemnation.
Is Breakfast Club really this big of a problem? Certainly putting down a costume party isn’t worth sacrificing business competition, campus nightlife, taxpayers’ money and tens of thousands of dollars in students’ fees.
As a graduating senior, I’ll be attending Breakfast Club for the first time on Saturday morning, finally taking part in a tradition that unites generations of Boilermakers around the world. Future students shouldn’t have to worry about saving Breakfast Club, but they might.
Jeff Bart is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and can be reached at email@example.com.