When discussions about resurrecting the Cardinal Pub took place at the end of last year, they caught the attention of WesWings owner Ed Thorndike ’89. Thorndike approached administrators and Wesleyan Student Assembly President Mike Pernick ’10 with a proposal this past summer, but zoning issues and the administration’s decision not to pursue the matter have significantly impeded its consideration.
“We suggested that WesWings might be a good place to do [a pub],” Thorndike said. “People have always said that it would be great to have beer, because you already have wings.’”
The plan proposes building an addition to the front of WesWings to make room for a bar and seating area. The pub, which would serve beer and wine, would be open four to five nights a week, during a time when WesWings would serve food. Students would be able to use cash, Middletown cash and credit card—ut not point—o pay for alcohol. Only of-age University students, staff, faculty, alumni and their guests would be allowed inside. WesWings also suggested having a Public Safety officer present at their own expense.
Interest in reviving the Cardinal Pub led the administration to look into zoning issues.
“It turns out that zoning would not permit expansion of WesWings for a pub or similar business selling alcohol,” Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley wrote in an e-mail to the Argus. “In fact, zoning would not permit any expansion of the food and beverage use of the building beyond the current footprint because it is located in the residential zone east of High Street. It would also not permit a pub in the ID zone west of High Street. Most of Wes is in the ID zone.”
Whaley also noted that the administration has concerns with liability and cost issues, as well as the image of the University serving alcohol to students.
“I think those are valid concerns but certainly not a reason not to do it,” Pernick said in responses. He also said that it is possible to apply for a variance with the zoning commission.
The administration, however, has a different perspective.
“I discussed all of this with President Roth several weeks ago and we are both in agreement that this is not something that we want to pursue further given the issues and obstacles associated with the idea,” Whaley wrote. “Rather than Wes getting into this arena, we think students who are of legal age can easily walk to any number of establishments that serve alcohol on or near Main Street. We would prefer to direct valuable University resources to other ventures more aligned with our core mission.”
Pernick claims that there is currently no safe place to drink on campus.
“[A pub] keeps people here…it’s a safety issue when people are driving down to Main Street to go to bars,” Pernick said. “In light of the Fountain incident last year, having a pub would be a reliable and safe alternative. One of the big problems with Fountain is that cops show up and tell everyone to leave. Where will they go?”
The most recent WSA survey asked students if they would support a proposal to expand on-campus dining to include a pub that would serve of-age students beer and wine three to four times a week. Of the 518 students who responded, 86 percent voted ’yes,’ while 14 percent voted ’no.’
In the write-in section of the survey, students expressed concerns such as who would run and monitor the pub, who would be let in and who would cover its costs.
“I don’t want it if it comes at the expense of some other great program,” wrote one student.
Zachary Gidwitz ’09 liked the idea of a pub when it was proposed. He notes that because the University is not a dry campus, having a pub would be a good way to monitor drinking and keep it in a controlled area. But, with the proximity of Café Ology and bars on Main Street, Gidwitz says he understands why the pub issue would be a low priority for the administration.
“I think the administration will make it a bigger deal if students make it a bigger deal,” Gidwitz said.
For now, Thorndike will leave the WesWings proposal on the table.
“We are here if they want to do it,” Thorndike said. “I don’t think their decision is going to change.”
Although the administration seems set in its current position, Pernick hopes to keep the discussion alive.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” Pernick said. “[We need to] continue the conversation and make sure we don’t drop the ball.”