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Princeton Student Eating Clubs Taking Heat Over Underage Drinking


Local authorities are stepping up pressure to curtail underage drinking at Princeton University student eating clubs.

Undergraduate presidents of three clubs now face underage drinking-related charges, and the municipal prosecutor has gone as far as to publicly threaten to shut down the clubs.

The three club presidents Cloister Inn President Savannah Sachs, Tiger Inn President Christopher Merrick and Cottage Club President Vincent Ley have been charged with providing drinks to a minor and maintaining a nuisance, police said.

The charges, according to police, were the result of recent incidents at all three clubs in which someone under New Jersey’s legal drinking age of 21 needed medical attention after consuming alcohol.

Police say a 17-year-old woman needed medical attention at the university health center on Sept. 28 after drinking at the Cloister Inn, a 19-year-old man had to be treated at University Medical Center in Princeton after drinking at the Tiger Inn on Oct. 7, and a 17-year-old man ended up at University Medical Center on Sept. 10 after drinking at the Cottage Club.

Princeton’s 10 eating clubs operate independently of the university and are private social and networking facilities for students and alumni. They occupy stately million-dollar mansions in the borough.

Princeton Borough police Lt. Dave Dudeck told The Times of Trenton that the club presidents, all 21-year-old Princeton seniors, have been cited because they’re considered responsible for what goes on in their clubs.

Associated Press phone calls and e-mails to the clubs and club presidents were not immediately returned on Saturday.

Earlier in the past week, municipal Prosecutor Kim Otis publicly warned that he might seek to force the clubs to shut down if they have a court-documented history of serving underage drinkers, but continue to do so.

During the 2002-03 school year, two club presidents and two other students were charged with providing drinks to people underage, after an undercover borough police investigation.

Will Scharf a university senior who leads the undergraduate Interclub Council and is president of another eating club, Charter Club told The Times that the clubs have made a determined effort in recent years to prevent underage drinking.

Measures include using professional security and bartenders, rather than student bartenders, checking personal identification cards of club visitors, and using a wristband system to identify those who are over 21, Scharf said.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher for underage people to get any service at all,” Scharf said.

–Associated Press

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