Friday, August 25, 2006

Third Annual Punchie Awards

You are invited, it's next Thursday at Buca.
View the evite

The awards are based on peer voting so Vote or Die.

You will have a chance to win some killer iron-ons that are even better than the stars we gave out last year.

Minneapolis - America's No. 2 drunkest city

Forbes magazine lists us as the second drunkest city in the U.S. behind Milwaukee. Let's take their title away!

Everyone needs to pitch in and do their part next Thursday at the Punchies by drinking until you lose your eyesight.


A Forbes ranking of the Twin Cities' drinking habits is greeted with much scorn and skepticism.

Pioneer Press

Where is the second-drunkest city in America?

Chances are you are living in it — according to Forbes Magazine, at least. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is surpassed only by Milwaukee in the magazine's first-ever "drunkest cities" evaluation.

"You mean we beat out New Orleans? Sounds kind of nuts to me," bartender Chris Fish said as he filled a glass of beer behind the bar of the Hat Trick Lounge in St. Paul.

From corner taps to government offices, experts on drinking scratched their heads Wednesday to try to explain what the survey means.

In the past, officials have boasted that surveys have been kind to the Twin Cities, praising the area lavishly for health, happiness and overall living conditions.

Or is that just the beer talking?

"It seems like that survey is a bit of a stretch," said Bob Hume, spokesman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Hume said that only two months ago, Kiplinger's Magazine ranked the Twin Cities metro area second in its "Smart Places to Live" survey.

"The criteria there were vibrant, fun, affordable," Hume said. "Enjoy our recreational opportunities responsibly."

How, he asked, could the same metro area be the nation's second-drunkest?

David Ewalt had some answers. He conducted the survey for Forbes as part of a series of stories on the night-life industry. Ewalt said he used a combination of government statistics from 2004 measuring rates of alcoholism, binge drinking, Alcoholics Anonymous participation and other figures.

He was surprised to see Milwaukee and the Twin Cities besting notorious party areas such as New Orleans (ranked 24th) and Las Vegas (No. 14).

"You go to New Orleans or Las Vegas, and they are very liberal about alcohol. You can drink beer on the streets," he said. "To a tourist, they can seem like very drunk towns."

It's likely, he said, that the pattern of drinking in Minnesota is more private.

But some experts said Ewalt's methods might have skewed the results.

"No. 2? I think we should be lower than that," said John Steiger, spokesman for the state Health Department, which compiles records of alcoholism rates.

He conceded that Minnesota and Wisconsin have ranked high on alcoholism surveys, but he said some data can be misconstrued.

For example, high participation in Alcoholics Anonymous could be a sign people are willing to address their problems, he said, and not an indication of drunkenness.

Hume also noted that, with 11 colleges, St. Paul has the second-highest number of students per capita after Boston. That could contribute to a high percentage of binge drinkers, he said.

In the cozy darkness of the Hat Trick Lounge in downtown St. Paul, several patrons — decidedly not problem drinkers themselves — sipped beers Wednesday and pondered the report's conclusion.

"I can see Milwaukee, with the reputation for beer drinking," said Greg Dols, a remodeler who lifted the brim of his paint-spattered baseball cap. "But here? I don't have any theories on that."

Shelley Meredith of Eau Claire, Wis., did. She thought the survey was wrong, period. "Every place has its drunks," she said. But having lived all around the country, she has seen no sign that the Twin Cities could be much "drunker" than elsewhere. "I just don't think that could be true," she said.

Mike Fiumano's reaction was blunt. "I think it's offensive to say that St. Paul is one of the drunkest cities, because I don't see that at all," he said. "I see a lot of young, responsible, business-minded people who want to do right in life."

Bartender Fish walked outside, where patrons were sipping suds in a sidewalk patio area, and he asked one customer about the Twin Cities' ranking.

"As least we are good at something," came the reply.

Bob Shaw can be reached at or 651-228-5433.

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