By Audrey Milam and Esther Shim
Jerrod leaves Magnolia’s at 2:20 a.m. Thursday night, ready to sober up on a heaping pile of hot food at a 24-hour restaurant. Few full service restaurants are still open downtown, but Jerrod has his sights set on Waffle House. The Washington Street Waffle House received an 87 on its last health inspection, not terrible but not great. “I don’t care,” Jerrod says, “Waffle House is AMAZING.”
“The Grill is disgusting. Steak ‘n Shake is way too far to drive on a couple [of drinks]. That’s just my prerogative,” Jerrod said, explaining his rationale.
After a night of fun and drinks, Jerrod said that he isn’t looking to drive anywhere, especially when Waffle House is only a short walk away. Plus, he enjoys the All-Star Breakfast deal that the joint serves.
Jerrod’s loyalty to his first choice restaurant is typical of downtown visitors. When it comes to picking a dive, cleanliness isn’t a factor. People just don’t care.
In a survey of 50 late-night drinkers, only two people changed their minds about their chosen eatery after learning the health score. Both decided not to go to Waffle House.
Most of the survey subjects commented on the quality and taste of the meals served or the quality of the service provided. Cleanliness didn’t play a large role in altering a subject’s choice of venue.
Multiple people declared that Waffle House had the best breakfast, the most convenient location, and the most food for a few bucks. In terms of pricing, some, such as UGA student Lewis Payne, disagreed.
“I prefer Steak ‘n Shake. Waffle House in Athens is disappointing. They all have bad service and cold food. I’ve never had a good experience at any of the three around campus.”
There are in fact nine Waffle Houses around Athens.
Steak ‘n Shake, a chain restaurant specializing in Steakburgers and milkshakes, was noted the second-most popular restaurant during the survey. The venue boasts half-priced shakes during happy hours from midnight to four in the morning, a prime time for drunken crowds to rush into the diner.
However, half-priced shakes and hot Steakburgers don’t mean that the restaurant is performing at high standards. The Steak ‘n Shake on West Broad Street actually failed a health inspection.
Unexpectedly, no one decided against Steak ‘n Shake, even after learning that it received a score of 71. The Clarke County Department of Public Health cited the restaurant for two critical violations: failure to properly wash hands, and failure to cool food properly.
Employees were seen handling clean dishes right after washing dirty dishes, something you might easily do in your home and never give a second thought. But it’s cross-contamination in the dish room enough to alarm health inspectors.
A representative for the West Broad Street Steak ‘n Shake declined to comment on the branch’s performance.
Steak ‘n Shake’s failure didn’t seem to sway its fans, though.
“I can’t believe Steak ‘n Shake is so dirty. I guess I’d still go, though. I love their fries,” said UGA student Sarah Greene.
The restaurant offers several flavored seasonings for customers to add to their fries. Greene said she constantly craves this dish and often orders “a ton of fries and a shake after a night out with the girls.”
After learning about some of Steak ‘n Shake’s health code violations, Greene shrugged and said, “they must be busy or something.”
Ricoh Black, another UGA student, agreed, “I’d still go to Steak ‘n Shake to get my Steakburger, parmesan fries and my mint Oreo shake. Can’t pass up such a good deal. Why would anyone want to pay 10 bucks for a burger when they can pay four bucks for one?” he said, referring to the higher prices at The Grill.
The long-time Athens diner, The Grill scored the best out of the round-the-clock downtown eateries. It’s score of 93 is exceptional, but not enough to change its perception as a grungy hole-in-the-wall.
“I was never a big fan of The Grill. It’s grody,” said UGA student Matt Thomas. He said the cleanliness was funny because “it’s always gross” when he goes. “I haven’t heard any good things, like ever.”
According Yelp, The Grill scored three and half stars out of five, and four stars on Urbanspoon.
Mike Bradshaw, owner of The Grill since 2009, laughed at the survey’s findings. “I worked my butt off for that [health inspection] score!” he said.
When it comes to dining after a night out and a few drinks, does the health score truly make a difference? In this college town, it’s not about the cleanliness of a diner, but about convenience, large servings, and money left in pockets.
By Zack Taylor
For some students, drinking is a fun and relaxing activity. For others it is a dangerous risky endeavor.
Every year the University of Georgia Police Force arrests hundreds of underage drinkers.
While it may be the common thought among students that police are out to catch them for drinking underage, University Police Chief Jimmy Williamson has a different insight.
“Typically anytime a student any contact with the police is when they over consume,” Williamson said.
“It’s then that students will have poor decision making or become a victim and police will get involved.”
Williamson said that when he asked is asked who complains most about student behavior the answer shocks people.
“What happens is [students] over consume, they do something silly and other students call in and complain.” Williamson said. “If we find they’re drinking and under 21 there are going to be arrests.”
There is a misconception about underage drinking that Williamson addresses.
“The law doesn’t say you have to be drunk, the law is about possession.” Williamson said. “If you have one drink in the hand and the other in your body, that’s possession under Georgia law.”
Williamson said that the simple act of an underage individual just holding a friend’s beverage can constitute possession, however police are at liberty to use discretion.
“If you explain to the officer that you are just holding it and the officer doesn’t smell any beer on you, then he’ll probably cut you some slack,” Williamson said.
A student arrested for underage possession is not only directly taken to the Athens-Clarke County police department where they are charged, but also is punished by the University for a Code of Conduct violation.
According to the University code of conduct, underage possession of alcohol is in violation of the Code of Conduct.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gave University the authority to contact the parents of a student who has been charged with alcohol possession.
However, this measure is completely optional and is at the complete discretion of The Office of Judicial Programs.
According to the University code of conduct there are two levels of violations relating to alcohol.
A Level I offense concerns possession and or use of alcohol. A Level II violation concerns use paired with operating a vehicle, committing a violent act, disorderly conduct or damage of property.
There are punishments for both Level I and II violations. For Level I the punishment includes the mandatory attendance of an alcohol education program and 6-12 months of probation.
For Level II offenses there are additional sanctions including suspension and other measures to be determined by the University based on the individual case.
Students are arrested for underage possession every year, but it is not a priority of the University Police department, which only arrests approximately 250 students a year for underage drinking.
The amount of students they notice who are underage and intoxicated is far higher, however.
“If we wanted to arrest every underage drinker it would be so easy,” Williamson said. “It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Even with the risks, students still drink and are arrested for underage possession.
“My friends and I used to go skate at the Hull Street parking deck and drink a beer,” said Zach Parker, who was arrested for under possession last year. “It’s sound dumb and it really was.”
Parker had found the area to be s safe zone and really considered it no less risky then drinking at his own residents.
The protocol for Parker and his friends was to drink a beer while riding a skateboard to the bottom of the parking deck and then ride the elevator back up to the top.
“In our minds we had done so many things before in that parking deck,” Parker said. “What could go wrong?”
On this particular day one of Parker’s friends felt something was wrong.
“He suggested we get rid of our beers before we went down and my other friend and I didn’t listen to him,” Parker said. “We should have listened to his infinite wisdom.”
On what would be there last ride down, a University police officer approached the three students and questioned them about their activities at the parking deck.
“You can’t really skate in the parking deck so that’s why she approached us,” Parker said.
The officer noticed Parker and one of his friends were holding beer cans and after an ID check they were immediately arrested for minor possession.
“My other friend was let go, even though he had been drinking,” Parker said. “He just didn’t have any beer on him at the time.”
University police are not the only law enforcement that catches underage drinkers.
“The first semester of my freshman year I got a minor possession charge downtown,” said Bryan Thompson, a student at the University.
Thompson said he was caught when his friend tried to sneak him a fake ID downtown when an officer noticed the handoff.
“He made me show him the fake and both me and my friend were arrested,” Thompson said.
Even though he was arrested by an Athens-Clarke County officer outside of University property, Thompson was still liable for a Code of Conduct violation because he was a student.
Consumption of alcohol is a part of not only University life, but life in general. While it is tempting for young students to engage in underage consumption there are risks involved.
If students decide to run the risk of drinking underage there are things that can be done to keep them safe.
Although Williamson said he could never condone drinking underage, he said the problem does not lie with drinking, but excess.
“If everyone drank in a responsible manner then I would never know how old you are because I would have no reason to ask,” Williamson said.