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Opinion

River Falls lacking midnight munchies

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October 13, 2006

At 2 a.m. bartenders and bouncers shuffle college students and alcoholics alike out of the dimly lit brick buildings that line both sides of Main Street. Once out on the street, the mass chaos of people walking and driving to various destinations ensues. Instead of the mildly tipsy to wildly drunk patrons finding a place to wind down, we are left to find our own ways home and deal with the side effects of hangovers.

I would rather not be left to my own demise after a long night on the town — instead I wish I had a place where I could consume mass quantities of waffles and greasy bacon.

Even if absorbing liquor isn’t a main goal for middle-of-the-night consumption, late night studying always goes more smoothly when food is involved.

In college towns around the nation restaurants like IHOP, Perkins and Waffle House stay open 24 hours each day in order to cater to the late-night crowds. Students like myself enjoy having the opportunity to make a 3:30 a.m. run for pancakes and sausage without worry of being kicked out at close or spending more money than exists in our bank accounts.

In River Falls there is a serious lack of venues where the average college student, whether underage or older than 21, can escape when the noise of the dorms or bustling of roommates becomes too much to handle.

In a town where the population seems to double when class is in session, there is no convenient place open past bar close at 2:30 a.m. The only actual business in town that stays open 24 hours a day is the Holiday gas station located on the corner of Locust and Main streets. So if you’ re craving a stale Twinkie and the remains of a pot of coffee brewed the day before, then River Falls has everything you could ever want.

Actually, I know there is a serious problem when the taxi company, a service usually meant to help keep drunks off the road, is only open long enough to drive someone to the bar, but stops running hours before the bars close.

If someone’s cravings are strong enough and they’re feeling ambitious, then the closest place to find a restaurant that will serve the drunk and disorderly is 10 miles away in Hudson.

Hudson provides a number of services that can entertain the late-night crowd, including Perkins, the McDonald’s drive-thru, Denny’s and Wal-Mart.

Is it really safe to not only allow, but practically encourage people who have been consuming alcohol or who have been studying until the small hours of the morning to drive a greater distance than the town they live in just to eat some french fries or peruse the cheap movie bin at Wal-Mart?

Personally, I think that it’s ridiculous that the closest 24-hour restaurant is in Hudson, and though Perkins restaurants around the country will stay open for that length, the one located in our town closes at 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends.

When I called the Perkins in River Falls to ask why they weren’t a 24-hour establishment the only response I got was, “I don’t know.” As if to make up for that, the poor woman who I forced to answer difficult questions that I’m sure she has no way of knowing the answers to, said they’ ve never been open 24 hours. Hmm, doesn’t really help the midnight cravings or the 2:30 a.m. drunken stupor.

However, it’s all OK because they open at 6 a.m. So if you can stay awake that long, then Perkins is there to cater to your every need, otherwise it might just be better to go when you wake up for a late breakfast or lunch.

I have to admit though that River Falls is not the first town to lack something extra for all those college-aged kids. I started my college career in northern Minnesota at Bemidji State University. From Bemidji I made my way to London, and finally settled here to complete my undergraduate degree.

Bemidji had one step up on River Falls in that the Perkins actually stayed open around the clock, but the bars closed at 1 a.m. while I was there, and the taxi service consisted of an elderly lady and her sometimes-in-town son shuttling residents from place to place. Like River Falls, their taxi service also closed well before the break of the next day and left the people who drank too much to walk back to campus or drive to their homes.

Comparing London to River Falls would be unfair in every aspect in that the nightlife thrived greater than any city found near to River Falls, and the options of all-night eateries were expansive and could be found in the heart of the entertainment district — right where all the students spent their time.

All in all I like what River Falls has to offer, and being close to the Twin Cities does have its benefits. Hopefully someday Perkins will learn that it will have many customers at 4 a.m. on the weekends and the profits will likely greatly outweigh the cost of keeping it open longer. Maybe someday I’ll have somewhere to eat that greasy bacon when the Holiday gas station isn’t quite hitting the spot.