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Campus Pub

The last question we were asked to consider was whether it is desirable, and if so, feasible to reintroduce a campus pub. This turns out to be a very easy question followed by a more difficult one.

The easy question has to do with desirability. The widespread and strong support across a broad range of constituencies for reinstatement of a campus pub was so evident early in our deliberations that we decided we did not need to include the question on our website. Even so, one student wrote as follows: "HAVING A CAMPUS PUB IS A GREAT IDEA: It will provide an alternative for students and help us learn how to drink responsibly (at least those over 21 — though I think everyone should be allowed in). A pub could help students realize that one can have a few drinks, listen to music, have some fun, etc., without the goal of getting 'trashed.'"

This student's comment is echoed in the report presented to the working group by the 20-member Campus Pub Committee that spent several months examining in great detail the most desirable characteristics of a campus pub and a broad set of questions related to feasibility. This committee included five undergraduates (two of them from the working group); three graduate students; and staff from a broad range of offices, including Campus Life, Facilities, Community Affairs, Public Safety, Dining Services and General Counsel. The committee endorsed a campus pub and supported a venue that would be welcoming to all campus constituents, a place where food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages would be sold, a place that would encourage and support interaction and conversation among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and staff, and a place that would support an environment conducive to modeling responsible use of alcohol.

We hold this same view, and expect that at a minimum the pub would be in a convenient on-campus location and open from late afternoon until late at night. We hope that the late afternoon clientele would include a mix of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff, while we expect that the later evening clientele would consist largely of students. In addition to food, beverages, and spaces conducive to conversation, we hope the venue can be outfitted to look and feel like a pub and that on occasion it might feature music or other entertainment. We believe the pub should provide a range of beers on tap and wines of good quality but at reasonable price, and since one important goal of the pub would be the modeling of responsible use of alcohol, we believe the pub should be open to underage students with adequate safeguards in place to ensure that alcohol is available only to students who can legally drink.

The difficult part of the question is related to feasibility. After lengthy deliberation, the committee expressed a preference for a venue that was renovated or constructed with the primary purpose of serving as a campus pub (a "purpose-built" space), as opposed to an existing space that would be converted at certain times of day to serve as a pub. Recognizing the challenges that would have to be overcome to identify a location, develop a design and obtain funds for such a purpose-built space, the committee instead focused its attention on locations that, in its view, could be successfully converted to serve as a pub during late afternoon and evening hours at a potentially manageable cost. The committee examined a range of possibilities, and in the end put forward two locations that seem most promising to us:

  • The downstairs "Tap Room" at Prospect House.
  • The downstairs café area at Chancellor Green, site of the former pub.

Both locations have a current program that includes food and beverage sales and service. Both are self-contained areas with restrooms adjacent or nearby. Both are on-campus and have external as well as internal access points so patrons can enter directly into the pub.

The outside entrance to the Prospect Tap Room is convenient for students, and members of the faculty and staff are already familiar with the venue as an attractive luncheon location. The room is attractive and well appointed, and its proximity to Frist allows easy transit back and forth between the entertainment spaces in Frist and the more intimate conversational space at Prospect. The major disadvantages are the relatively small size of the space, the relatively high costs of the renovations that would be required (estimated in excess of a half million dollars), and the potential incompatibility on occasion between operation of the pub and other activities in the upstairs parts of the building, ranging from academic receptions and trustee meetings to weddings.

Chancellor Green is less centrally located for many students and faculty, although it is very convenient to Firestone Library and offices and teaching spaces in the humanities. While the building in which it is located is very attractive, the café space itself would need work to make it more conducive to conversation, and while the overall cost of renovation probably is less than at Prospect it would still be significant (estimated in the quarter-to-half-million-dollar range). The space is larger than Prospect, and pub programming would not displace or conflict with other programming in this venue.

The pub committee heard reports on the licensing process that would be required if the University went forward with the reinstatement of a pub and the conversations that would be required with local and state officials. In seeking both the requisite license and the requisite support from outside agencies, much would depend on the specific venue that was being proposed, and so the committee recommended deferring these elements of the process until decisions can be made about venue and about whether funds can be secured to cover both the capital costs of renovation and the operating costs of the pub. As a working group, we believe the benefits that would accrue from reinstating a pub, especially in helping to create a more responsible culture on campus regarding alcohol, justify the investment of time and resources to develop a plan for one of these two locations and seek both the approvals and the funding necessary to go forward.