Ruthie Braunstein/The Hoya On Tap: Dana Cavallaro (COL ’01) returns for a refill at the first of many Student Bartending Nights at Hoya’s. At last week’s inaugural night, the restaurant was nearly filled throughout the evening. A once-legendary student-run watering hole, the Basement served Georgetown students until then-Dean of Students James A. Donahue closed it during the 1994-95 school year.

In an effort to bring back “the pub,” Brian Walsh (COL ’02) and Jeff Burns (COL ’01) have begun a program at the Marriott-owned Hoya’s to try and make it a more student-friendly atmosphere.

“I’m trying to provide a place where all students regardless of age can come and interact,” Walsh said.

The restoration of Hoya’s arrives during a time of tense university-neighborhood relations, when residents complain at Advisory Neighborhood Council meetings about roving bands of noisy students returning from M Street bars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. While the university has initiated several programs to curb student misbehavior off campus, residents continue asking the university to keep its inebriated students on campus. The idea of reinstating Friday classes to curb Thursday night partying has been discussed by residents and administrators, but many students and administrators are seeking a route that would lead to building community instead.

According to Walsh, keeping students on campus was a fundamental goal in their plan to bring back the pub. After the Basement closed, students were pushed onto M Street establishments to find weekend activities, resulting in off -campus noise and even violence in establishments like Chadwick’s. Off-campus drinking at Champions has been linked to the death of junior David Shick almost a year ago.

In the face of these conditions, Walsh and Burns are trying to curb off campus drinking by keeping students on campus. “We wanted to make campus more appealing to students,” Walsh said. “When students go off campus, they sometimes cause problems. A positive effect of [our initiative] is to encourage students to stay on campus and not be out in the neighborhood as much.”

Along with campus organizations like the Georgetown Program Board and the Georgetown Day Planning Committee, Walsh and Burns’ operates on hopes of rebuilding an on campus sense of community and fun, while diminishing town-gown hostility in the process.

This development and implementation of an on campus program marks a break in the usual string of complaints leveled against university bureaucracy by student life leaders. The administration has been instrumental in bringing back a student-friendly Hoya’s, Walsh said.

In addition to the fast-acting administration, the student proposal quickly materialized within Hoya’s space. The facility was found despite oft-voiced student complaints of Georgetown’s lack of space. Within that area, Marriott made student-requested changes, lowered prices and changed decor.

Then

Donahue closed the Basement because of shortening revenues, widely attributed to student bartenders’ distribution of free drinks to friends. According to Donahue in an interview last week, the Basement’s downfall could also be attributed to a lack of “effective regulating and monitoring of alcohol.”

After its closing, hundreds of students protested, but Donahue never reopened the pub.

“It’s just very difficult,” he said, citing lack of controls at the pub, to monitor and contain the underage drinking and distribution of free drinks.

Donahue specifically mentioned the use of students as bartenders as a major problem. “Students are unable to be bartenders to other students,” Donahue said. “It creates an enormous conflict.”

Recounting several problems with the on-campus pub concept, Donahue noted space constraints and the fact that only one quarter of undergraduates are of legal drinking age as roadblocks to providing a drinking establishment for the student body.

“There is nothing stopping a person of age from ordering drinks for someone under 21 years of age,” Donahue said. He noted the problem of keeping underage students from drinking, especially in situations where 18-year-olds and 21-year-olds are socializing in the same place.

“Thinking of the pub is not a way to solve the need for a good social gathering place for Georgetown students, it is not very constructive,” said Donahue. “Students should try to find other roads.”

Despite the closing of the Basement, students found access to alcohol on campus in the Marriott-operated Hoya’s bar. A hangout for students over 21 and those below, the crowded, student-friendly Hoya’s era ended April 15, 1999, when an underage student threw a beer bottle, hitting Aaron Polkey (COL ’02) in the face. The incident caused minor injury to Polkey, but university administrators elected to stop admitting those under 21 to Hoya’s student-sponsored events, such as student bartending or karaoke. Reported lax underage drinking policies and the occurrence of fights also contributed to administrators’ call for change.

Hoya’s underwent renovations during the summer of 1999, reopening the next school year with a decor that many students found unappealing. A review of the redecorated Hoya’s (“Hoya’s: Once Popular Student Hangout Becomes Virtual Wasteland” pg. 1G) in The Hoya described the bar of old as “The place to be. On Thursday nights, The Leavey Center restaurant/bar became even more popular than places like The Tombs and Chadwicks . By 11 p.m., the bar would be so packed it would take 10 minutes to get from one side of the room to the next. The wait for a pool table could be up to 90 minutes.”

Now

Walsh and Burns’ short-term goal is to renovate Hoya’s into an appealing place for students to congregate and have fun, while their long-term goal still remains bringing back a separate, student pub.

The proposal to “Bring Back the Pub” was presented in October 2000 and called for the reinstatement of a student pub. Defining a pub as a place where all students could go to socialize and would serve alcohol to students over 21, a compromised reincarnation of the Basement was reached within the doors of Hoya’s.

Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez said a return of the on campus student-run pub may not be necessary because of new student-friendly policies at Hoya’s.

“I think we’re all open for discussion [of a pub], but we are a long way from that,” he said.

According to Gonzalez, before anything is done, the reasons why Hoya’s “isn’t meeting our needs [must be assessed]. If the goal is to establish a drinking establishment, we already have that.”

Gonzalez’s reluctance to establish an on-campus pub at Georgetown differs from past initiatives. According to Walsh, Gonzalez was instrumental in opening a student pub during his tenure at UC-San Bernadino.

For now, efforts to revamp Hoya’s include planning student-friendly events there and incorporating more Georgetown paraphernalia into the decor such as jerseys from Georgetown athletics and oars from the crew team.

The original proposal submitted by Walsh and Burns called for “cheap, non-alcoholic drinks, food, music (with the opportunity of student musicians and DJs), a dance floor and possibly recreational items such as pool tables, pinball machines or large screen televisions.” These changes were designed in keeping with the 14-point plan Gonzalez outlined as community-building and necessary for moving the Block Party on campus last semester.

According to its organizers, the focus of the pub would not be drinking, but rather establishing a setting for community interaction – another feature Gonzalez highlighted in his Block Party statement.

Thursdays

The new Hoya’s trial period began Feb. 1 and included features such as student bartender night on Thursdays, and will extend to offering karaoke and reduced menu prices after special events like sporting events or concerts, according to Walsh.

The first student bartender night last Thursday was enjoyable for most students. However, one student who went to Hoya’s this past Thursday, Betsy Verrill (COL ’02), said, “It is not as much fun as it used to be.”

About 30 people stayed to do karaoke until 1 a.m., with several hundred filling the bar during the night, Walsh said. The opening “was a pretty big success, we reached capacity, so we had problems and they had to stop letting people in,” he said.

While Walsh was pleased with the participation and overall success of the event, he acknowledged that it was not the same as before Hoya’s renovation.

“There was a different feel; we’re trying to work on the atmosphere,” he said. “It was less hectic but still a good time. People were watching the UNC-Duke game and some were doing karaoke and dancing.”

Scheduled in conjunction with Late Night at Leavey, the first student bartender night at Hoya’s drew a large crowd of mostly juniors and seniors, with younger students participating in the activities provided outside Hoya’s.

“Thursday, all the seniors were in and out of Hoya’s, and so they were enjoying Late Night,” event organizer Randy Rivera (COL ’02) said. “All the seniors I know went home afterward, and it wasn’t just limited to those who were 21. That made it a real on campus hangout. It was very civilized, but still a lot of fun.”

According to Walsh, students acted responsibly at Hoya’s Thursday. Encouraged by student response and aided by the financial leeway allowed by using the Office of Student Programs’ karaoke equipment rather than paying for rental equipment, Walsh said student bartender night will continue.

“At first we were planning just to do it for a six-week trial period,” Walsh said. “But now the plans are to have the student bartender night on Thursdays for the rest of the year.”

Walsh also said more programming will be added to the event later in the semester. GPB events may possibly be scheduled in conjunction with student bartender night.

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