City, bars stress safety and cooperation for Tequila Sunrise
By Gary Collins
To Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the surrounding Flagstaff community, the Homecoming tradition of Tequila Sunrise can be considered either a bane or a blessing. Owners of the bars participating in Tequila Sunrise look forward each year to the large revenue day, while NAU administration, such as President John Haeger, wish to put an end to the notorious tradition.
Tequila Sunrise got its start in the ’70s at the Latin Corner, a bar located on the corner of San Francisco Street and Butler Avenue. Steve Saville, downtown manager for the City of Flagstaff, joined in the revelry as an NAU student.
“It was a female that owned it,” Saville said. “She used to put a chain link fence around [the bar] and would put out five 50-gallon drums and lit a fire in it and would walk around and sell shots of Tequila for 50 cents. That’s how it started.”
From those humble beginnings grew a tradition which has become, along with the rest of Homecoming, the second-highest day of revenue for the downtown community each year.
The Flagstaff Police Department (FPD), NAU representatives, the Arizona Liquor Control Board, Northern Arizona Center Against Sexual Arizona (NACASA) and five of the eight bar owners or managers participating in Tequila Sunrise met on Oct. 12 to discuss strategies to promote safety for the annual event.
Saville presided over the meeting.
“The main reason we’re doing this here; we’re trying to figure out a way that makes [the] least impact, to keep it as safe as possible,” Saville said. “Safety has become a huge issue. My goal for all of the bars at this point is how we protect this economic activity so it is not put into a position where we lose this activity.”
Part of the plan to lessen the negative impact of Tequila Sunrise is the rerouting of the Homecoming Parade. It will no longer pass through the neighborhoods north of downtown Flagstaff, but will instead stage at City Hall and run down Aspen Avenue to San Francisco Street up to Birch Avenue, go over to Agassi Street, cut up to Cherry Avenue and then back to Beaver Street, where the parade will end.
Another concern of the city is how to guarantee those who celebrate Tequila Sunrise will get back to campus safely. NAU has been asked to provide 50 volunteers who will partner with FPD and be located between downtown and campus to assist students in returning back to campus safely.
This approach, Saville said, will be “trying to reduce the conflict between business property and residential owners and the participants; trying to reduce the vandalism, public urination and those types of issues.”
Joe Tritschler, community relations officer for the NAU Police Department (NAUPD), stressed there were many other Homecoming activities going on that day besides Tequila Sunrise.
“There are lots things people can do without getting intoxicated,” Tritschler said. “That’s the whole idea behind fan fest there: get people out and encourage them to enjoy sports. So, it should be awesome.”
He went on to emphasize the NAUPD does not want to discourage people from having a good time and does not want students to fear legal action when returning to campus if behaving appropriately. Their approach will be low key and their hope is students will not make unwise or dangerous decisions.
To tackle the issue of public urination, the city will provide port-a-johns along the south side of downtown along the routes back to campus. Trash cans will also be available. Also, in an effort to stress safety and to aid those who are overintoxicated, Northland Family Health Center, along with NACASA and NAU Health Promotions, will be present in Heritage Square.
According to the NACASA spokesperson at Friday’s meeting, “We are going to be there from six am to noon, with free water, free food, games, prizes, the Giant Squirrel from Health Promotions at NAU and just try to have a lot of information about sexual assault and give ‘em some bread to kind of soak up the alcohol.”
Lance Roberts, FPD lieutenant, feels Tequilia Sunrise can be a positive event.
“Our main focus is making sure that the people attending Tequila Sunrise are as safe as possible, but nobody is 100 percent safe,” Roberts said. “But the whole idea is to have our people, as well as NAU, watch out for people. If they drink too much and they are to that point, then hopefully we can get them back to campus. Our main thing is that it is great for the businesses. It’s good for the community and it’s our responsibility that we try to make it as safe as possible for everybody attending. Just have fun and be safe.”