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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is going to be a little bit smaller this time around.

UF has joined forces with Jacksonville city officials to make this year's UF-Georgia game safer for everyone. The city of Jacksonville will increase police presence and the number of sideline safety zones while some of the waterfront venues will cut back on alcohol sales.

"University of Florida officials, including President Machen and Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin, were very concerned about the safety of students and fans at a game that has had issues in the past," UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said.

One venue in particular, The Landing, a waterfront complex of bars and restaurants, has worked to implement new safety measures for the game weekend.

Rachel Nudge, spokeswoman for The Landing, said that safety has never been a big issue in the complex before.

"That shows that we have to be doing something right," she said.

However, she said UF officials approached The Landing and the city of Jacksonville with safety concerns.

The Landing decided to reduce its outdoor alcohol vendors by 50 percent and increase police presence by 25 percent. The sale of roaming shots has also been eliminated.

Nudge said the new measures aren't necessarily being implemented to reduce alcohol consumption but to reduce foot traffic and keep the crowd moving.

"We just wanted to promote a safe atmosphere," Nudge said.

UF junior Hailey Zielinski said she understands that people drink and some rules are going to be broken, but she hopes that students behave responsibly this year.

On the night before last year's game, Zielinski and four of her friends were driving back from a Halloween party when their car was hit head-on by a drunken driver. One of her friends was killed, and everyone else was seriously injured.

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"I'm really, really hoping that everyone is safe this year," Zielinski said.

According to Nudge, the vendors at The Landing must take classes from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco where they will be trained to identify fake IDs and determine when someone has had too much to drink.

Nudge said division officers have always been present at The Landing during that weekend, but there will be more of them this year.

"They will arrest you for underage drinking. They will ticket you," she said.

UF junior Jordan Ball, who will celebrate his 21st birthday that weekend, said the increased security and fewer vendors may take away from the fun of the event.

"It certainly makes it more difficult for me to do what I wanted to do," he said.

Nudge said everyone will still be able to have a good time, just in a safer environment.

"It's a fun attraction," she said. "It's a party, and we just want to make sure everyone is safe and stays safe."

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