New rules at The Pub rile students

The Pub at the Wise Campus Center has long been the most popular local bar, because of its easy accessibility on campus and entertainment events. The Pub has always been run by Sodexo, the on-campus food service provider and vendor that runs dining facilities.

That, say some students, has changed recently.

“The Pub used to be busy most weekends, because it’s the closest place for every student over the age of 21 to go to,” said Shane O’Neil, a senior and War and Peace major. O’Neil was a regular “for about a year” at the Pub, since he turned 21 and could legally drink.

But, said O’Neil. “I put a little stop from going there, for a little while,” adding “most people stopped going there because of the changes.”

Those changes took place at the beginning of the semester after the long Christmas/New Years break. Students complain the major rule changes are discouraging student clientele from going to The Pub and socializing and enjoying themselves.

The changes have affected the maximum capacity of customers, the discontinuation of shots and hard liquors, restrictions on payment methods and food orders, as well as Sodexo supervisors directly supervising and patrolling clientele, according to a student who has professional relations with patrons of The Pub and wants to remain anonymous.

“The environment of The Pub, from when I first turned 21 to now, is totally different,” the student said, saying that multiple new rules and changes, being done in such short time, have completely changed the overall atmosphere and attitude of the business.

“Some of the rules affected me, some affected others, and some rules affected everyone,” the student said. He noted as soon as students got back from winter break, The Pub would no longer accept Cadet Cash. Cadet Cash is the non-exchangeable digital currency held on Norwich University Student Identification Cards; the prepaid Cadet Cash is not exchangeable towards actual forms of currency. The student said he personally didn’t use Cadet cash for drinks. “However, this did affect a lot of students who were frequently going there,” he said.

The abrupt nature of the change caught many off-guard. “It felt like ‘bam,’ everything is different now,” said O’Neil. “Only half of us can go in, because of these in your face changes.”

“Not being able to use Cadet Cash at the Pub, but still being able to technically use it next door at the Mill for food is confusing,” said Matthew Harris. As a senior, majoring in computer security, Harris has been has been going to The Pub for almost a year, prior to the changes.

“Not too long ago, we used to be able to buy everything through the Pub,” said Harris. “Now, it’s just weird how we have to walk in and out of the Pub to buy food directly from the Mill, just a few feet away, if we’re using Cadet Cash.” However, customers may still purchase food through the Pub with credit cards, debit cards, or actual cash.

Millie Heidenreich, the general manager for Sodexo, said the new restrictions on use of Cadet Cash to buy alcohol is a return to established policy.

“It is both the university and Sodexo’s policy to not accept Cadet Cash to purchase alcohol. When Cadet Cash is advertised, we share that alcohol cannot be purchased with Cadet Cash giving family members the security of knowing they are using the money for food, books, laundry, etc… It has always been our policy to not accept Cadet Cash in the Pub,” she wrote in an email.

According to Heidenreich, Sodexo learned that policy had not been enforced. “We became aware that some of our employees were allowing students to purchase alcohol in the Pub, which lead to us disabling the Cadet Cash feature on the register.”

She agreed that “is an inconvenience,” but noted “we do allow students to order and pay for food on The Mill side and bring that food into The Pub.”

Another new rule that has deterred some former regular patrons of The Pub is a limitation on how liquor or other beverages can now be served.

“It sucks that I can’t even order something, like a whiskey, neat or on the rocks anymore,” said O’Neil, “so that pretty much limits why I was going there in the first place.”

Under the previous policy, shots and straight liquors used to be available in controlled quantities and sizes and only served directly at the bar.

Heidenreich said that “originally, when The Pub opened, we served no shots.” However, she explained that students asked that the bar serve shots and The Pub started serving them in 2015. However, she said recent concerns about rowdy behavior and alcohol abuse prompted the bar to rescind the policy.

“Based on student behavior, it is in everyone’s best interest that we stopped serving shots,” she said.

“Only being able to serve cocktails and beers makes everyone feel like they’re being limited,” argued O’Neil, who is from Glen, N.H. “So anyone over 21, on a good night, would rather just go to the “Stic” (the nickname for the local Northfield hangout The Rustic. The strict drink menus and other changes have resulted in a drop in the number of people hanging out at The Pub. It has also raised questions whether this is prodding students to acquire alcohol from other vendors or connections and drink on campus.

“I hate to say it, but since we can’t buy what we want down there, everyone over 21 has just been going down to Shady’s (the local liquor store) to buy whatever they want for cheaper,” said the anonymous student. He suggested “since the changes, a lot more people have been breaking the rules and bring booze back to their rooms.”

Another change of practice at The Pub that may be causing students to divert to other bars or sneak alcoholic substances into their rooms, is the change in the maximum capacity and amount of customers allowed at a time. “I literally came back from break, and they had signs saying no more than 40,” said O’Neil.” “Pub nights aren’t as fun anymore, now that they’re turning away customers, when the bar isn’t even half full,” said O’Neil.

“Like half of a group might be in there, and then the guard at the door has to turn away the other half, or their friends. It just breaks the whole social fun part of it, so the whole group just leaves and decides to go somewhere else.”

“It sucks, because of the maximum capacity, I have to find some way to reserve my spot to go to the bathroom or even get food,” said Harris, who is from Mesa, Ariz. “I have to leave something behind and let the door person know, that way someone waiting to enter the bar doesn’t rob my spot at 40 people.”

Heidenreich said the crowd limitations are part of the larger effort to try and prevent instances of rowdy behavior and fights. It is also why Sodexo now has staffers on site to try and control crowd size, she said.

For O’Neil, having staff monitor students has changed the atmosphere: “It just causes this awkward feeling, when someone is just staring at you from a corner.”

Most students understand that “it’s meant to keep anyone from doing anything stupid, but it just makes us not want to go there and be watched all night long,” agreed Harris.

“Being policed like that has just made people not want to go there,” said the anonymous student. “It doesn’t help how one of the supervisors yelled at someone as if they were five years old, from across the room, for cracking a joke,” he said, “Being treated like little kids, and being baby sat, has just made everyone leave.

“All of these strict rule changes out of nowhere is just causing people, even all the regulars to go elsewhere,” said O’Neil. “It’s not even fun, or relaxed, like it used to be.” O’Neil thought that some of these new rules would have had less of an effect on the overall atmosphere if they were gradually added. However, all of these changes out of nowhere has killed all the vibes, said O’Neil.

Most of the clientele that went to the Pub “would rather go elsewhere to actually have a good time,” said Harris, “rather than sit in a time-out chair.” Because of these rules changes, the Pub has become a lot less social and less popular than it has been in the past, he said.

“Most students would rather hitch a ride down the street, or risk getting caught with alcohol in their rooms, rather than waiting in line at the door, as if they were going through the TSA, not be allowed to purchase what they originally wanted with their own money, and being watched by the Gestapo in the corner,” said the anonymous student.

However, Heidenreich points out that having a school-operated on campus bar offers convenience but it also requires Sodexo follow state regulations and maintain control of the bar.

“We had a fight break out in The Pub this semester. We are legally responsible for what we serve customers. When behavior such as a fight occurs, we have to respond as needed,” she said. “This includes tighter supervision of our bartenders and customers to ensure the following is not occurring: Overserving. Fights. Leaving under the influence. Underage drinking.”

Heidenreich said she realized these changes “may not be popular” with students but Sodexo has to comply with rules from the Vermont Department of Liquor Control.

“Our staff is responsible for upholding the law. If people are becoming intoxicated, fighting, drinking underage, etc., we are required by The Vermont State Department of Liquor Control to make sure these behaviors and actions are not occurring.”

Gregory P. McGrath, director of the Wise Campus Center & Student Activities, agreed. He said “the Sodexo management team and staff work collaboratively and pro-actively with Student Affairs. Our priorities are consistent, emphasizing student safety.”

Comments

  1. Steven P Robinson, NUCC 79 says:

    Personally, I think the drinking age, for beer and wine, needs to be dropped back to 18. If someone is old enough to vote , enlist in the military (possibly give their life for the country) or engage in marriage of their own volition, they ought be able to buy a beer.

    That being said, it does look like some of the restrictions are a burden on campus social life.

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