From 1974 until 1984 Wesleyan students could enjoy beer on tap at The Cardinal Pub located in Downey House, the former student center. Now, 24 years later, Mike Pernick ’10, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) President-elect, would like to see a pub return to campus.
“It’s near the top of the agenda for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee and it’s phrased as a safe place on campus to drink alcohol,” Pernick said. “A lot of universities have bars. It would be a very nice thing for us to have.”
Pernick stressed that the idea is just in the preliminary stages and that no proposals have been put forward. Many logistical details will need to be discussed next year, including the cost of getting a permanent liquor license.
“I would contend that the profits from the bar would more than make up for the cost of the liquor license,” he said.
Dean of Campus Programs Rick Culliton, however, has his doubts about resurrecting the campus pub.
“With about 25 percent of our students being of legal age (as well as the faculty and staff who might stop in from time to time), I’m not sure there would be a business plan that would cover the costs,” Culliton told The Argus via e-mail.
Other major questions include the location of the pub as well as who would run it.
“The space that some students have mentioned as a possible location is the Daniel Family Commons on the third floor of the Usdan Center,” Culliton wrote. “This space has become a sought after location for campus events and dinners and the University would need to make a conscious decision that those events should be displaced to make room for a bar.”
Pernick fears that the administration may see the pub as promoting alcohol consumption, but he counters that a bar would create a safe location on campus for of age students.
Scott Backer, the assistant dean of student services, believes that if the pub were executed in the right way, it would be a beneficial addition to the campus.
“If it’s done well and students understand the rules of what that means to have a pub or bar on campus, I think it can be a good space on campus not just for drinking,” Backer said. “If the process were started next year, a realistic time line would be fall of ’09.”
Pernick agrees that the fall of 2009 would be a realistic date. The Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee would have to approve the idea first, and then the issue would be passed onto the Student Life Committee.
Nearby colleges are known to serve liquor to of age students. Beginning in 2004, Middlebury College offered students two free beers on certain nights at their campus grill. The cost, however, became too great, so students now have to purchase their beer. Vassar College serves both beer and hard liquor on campus at Matthew’s Mug.
“I know that some campuses just have beer and wine but I would hope that we would go all out,” Pernick said.
Assistant University Archivist Valerie Gillispie reported that from 1972 to 1982 the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 years old. By the time Davenport became the new student center, the drinking age in Connecticut had been raised to 21.
“It appears that the faculty dining room in the Downey House also served beer at about this time,” Gillispie said.
According to clippings in the archives, Gillispie believes that the administration did not force the closure of The Cardinal Pub.
“There wasn’t enough support to keep the pub and some other student initiatives going in the Downey House,” she said.
WSA Vice President Emily Malkin ’08 discussed the idea of a campus pub with administrators when the Usdan campus center was being constructed.
“The administration seemed receptive,” she said. “They have looked at it in the past and it didn’t seem to pan out in practice.”
Malkin says that students, many of whom venture off campus into Middletown on Wednesday nights to drink, are almost always receptive to the idea of a bar on campus.
Backer hopes an on-campus pub would help promote more responsible drinking practices.
“Hopefully it would take away some students who would drive intoxicated if they would have the option to stay on campus,” he said.
Director of Health Education Lisa Currie sees potential positives in creating a campus pub such as promoting a role model of responsible social drinking.
“There’s a lot of potential here.” Currie said. “Is it a done deal? No.”