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Controversy over underage drinking follows Study Hall’s owner

On her nights out in downtown Clemson, Senior Nicole Cooper said there are only a few factors she considers when choosing which bar to go to, “I typically go wherever my friends are. Or [whatever] looks the most bumping.” Cooper said, “I [also look for] cheap drinks or specials.”
Cooper and other Clemson students now have a new bar option to broaden their selection.
Study Hall, located in the old student bookstore on Sloan Street, opened its doors in early August.  The kitchen and restaurant adopted a refurbished version of downtown Clemson’s first bar, which opened in 1964. This establishment also went by the name Study Hall and was known as the “intellectual” watering hole.
The 2016 Study Hall’s first floor maintains a similar layout to its predecessor. The establishment features a first floor complete with a split-level bar and plenty of seating, while the second floor opens up to a spacious, rooftop patio area.
One of the men involved in opening the remodeled Study Hall is Jonathan Earl Starkey, ex-owner of a bar called Rude Rudy’s.
Rudy’s, which was located in Statesboro, Georgia, closed permanently after the murder of 18-year-old Michael Gatto. Starkey, who did not have liquor liability insurance, accepted a settlement with the Gatto family resulting in the permanent forfeiture of his liquor license in Statesboro.
Gatto had been a Georgia Southern student for only two weeks when he was brutally beaten by 20-year-old, Grant Spencer. Spencer was a bouncer at Rude Rudy’s, but off duty at the time of the incident.
Authorities said both the victim and his assailant had been allowed into the bar in accordance with the establishment’s age limit, which was listed as 18 and up. Both students were also given authority to drink at Rudy’s that night. Both were reportedly inebriated when they broke out into a fight.
Spencer reportedly beat Gatto in the head incessantly then dragged him outside and left him. A medical helicopter flew Gatto to the hospital, where he died of intense brain trauma shortly after.
Spencer was arrested and charged with battery and felony murder.
Gatto’s mother, Katherine Gatto blamed the incident on extremely lax restrictions towards underage drinkers.
“Rude Rudy’s is a predatory establishment,“ Katherine Gatto said before the Statesboro council, “Like a pedophile owning a candy store next to a preschool.”
Spencer and Gatto’s ability to circumvent underage laws at Rudy’s was not out of the ordinary for the bar. Rude Rudy’s yelp reviews also confirmed that there were many younger customers who seemed to have no issues getting drinks in the establishment.
User M.S reviewed the bar in 2014.
“[Rudy’s] is great place to go if you like to be surrounded by high school students from the surrounding counties.”
He added that attendees could bring any I.D to get in, and bouncers would overlook it.
“They will let you in no matter how old you are. 16, 24 whatever.”
Before Gatto’s death, Rudy’s also had 40 police reports filed against it, in 2014 year alone.
The Gatto parents hired an attorney to look into Starkey’s financial coverage so they could cover the $150,000 medical bills and funeral costs. The attempt fell short when they found Starkey did not have liquor liability insurance. The insurance was not required in the state of Georgia at the time.
Starkey accepted a settlement that surrendered his liquor license in the county of Statesboro and Rude Rudy’s closed permanently in fall 2014.
Study Hall opened in Clemson around two weeks ago.
Although Cooper herself is twenty-one, she says there is nothing particularly different about Clemson and the tendency for it’s underage students to drink.
“College campuses in general are places where people of all ages feel comfortable drinking,” said Cooper, “I don’t think Clemson’s campus has any more of a problem with underage drinking compared to other schools.” 

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