The Associated Press
LEXINGTON - University of Kentucky students returned to town last week to find longer drinking hours at area bars.
Lexington bar hours were extended Aug. 1 from 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The move is drawing praise from students, but warnings of caution from school administrators and police.
"I love it," said Damien Merk, 22, a University of Kentucky marketing sophomore, as he nodded his head to a techno beat at Two Keys Tavern Friday night.
The later hours haven't changed the rules at UK. The campus remains dry, and there isn't an off-campus drinking policy, said Victor Hazard, UK's associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
"Parties just off campus are up to the Lexington police," Hazard said. "If a student comes back on campus in an intoxicated state, he or she would be addressed by UK police or residence hall staff."
Hazard said UK's fraternities, sororities and residence halls have alcohol education programs to encourage wise decisions.
Bartenders shoulder some of the responsibility for those decisions.
"We try to keep our eye out for people who are out of control," said Mike Sullivan, a bartender at The Dame. "If somebody appears to be too intoxicated, we cut them off. Any bar with common sense would do the same."
Lexington police are enforcing the city's party plan, aimed at cracking down on disruptive parties in residential neighborhoods with a traffic patrol focusing on alcohol until 2 a.m. on weekends, said Lt. Ken Stuart.
"It's too soon to say if later bar hours would be the cause of any increase in alcohol-related incidents," Stuart said.
The new hours are also drawing concern from city officials in Richmond, home of Eastern Kentucky University and a place where the bars close at midnight and beer kegs must be registered.
Eastern Kentucky students said the early closing times means students will go to Lexington to continue drinking.
"I've been to Lexington (this summer) and seen a lot of people from around here," said William Stilley, 21, an EKU student who said he doesn't drink.
Eastern Kentucky freshman Rick Potter and some friends headed out to socialize Thursday night, and reflected Stilley's concept.
"We're going to UK to party," Potter said.
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