Chatham gets LCB permission to serve beer, wine inside cafe
Chatham University has received approval to get a liquor license to serve beer and wine at Cafe Rachel on the university campus beginning Sept. 28.
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Like peers at other schools, students at Chatham University have long counted on the usual assortment of campus pursuits from a fitness center and student clubs to art openings and concerts.
Now, university leaders are about to add a not-so-common campus amenity for their graduate and undergraduate students who are of legal drinking age: A pub.
The State Liquor Control Board has granted Chatham permission to begin serving beer and wine this fall inside Cafe Rachel, a coffee shop in Woodland Hall on campus.
University leaders say they believe it will be the only such on-campus venue in the city specifically for students. They say the decision, while a difficult one in some respects, made sense even as colleges nationwide continue to grapple with alcohol consumption issues including binge drinking.
More than half of Chatham's 2,300 students are of legal drinking age, university officials said. Some of those students have expressed interest in finding ways to enliven campus life.
Chatham President Esther Barazzone voiced an opinion supported in some quarters of higher education -- and disputed in others -- that it's better to encourage responsible drinking in a supervised campus setting than to push students away from campus on foot and in their cars, or risk that students will drink unsupervised behind closed doors in a dorm room.
"As you can appreciate, we would not have done this without the full support of our board of trustees," Ms. Barazzone said.
"Our belief is binge drinking happens when alcohol consumption is treated as something that occurs when you go out to a party and get blind drunk," she said.
Walt Fowler, Chatham's vice president for finance and administration, said the establishment set to open Sept. 28 will have a three-drink limit per customer. Bottled beer and wine by the glass will be served along with food.
Officials say staff will be trained to make sure students do not over-imbibe and that campus police will be close by if needed.
Ms. Barazzone said it was important to her that those who are of legal age to drink among Chatham's undergraduate women's college not have to rely on off-campus fraternity parties or other unsupervised settings. The school does not have sororities.
Giving students the option of stopping off with a friend for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer following a campus movie or an art show in the gallery that is adjacent to the cafe is a logical way to encourage responsible adult behavior, Ms. Barazzone said.
"They will be safer," she said. "We never could control what they do off campus."
It's not uncommon for colleges or universities to hold alcohol licenses, in many cases for event venues, or for faculty, staff and visitors. Some have restaurants intended for the general public that are licensed.
Less common are on-campus venues largely for students, though they do exist and in some cases have been around for decades, said Elizabeth Beltramini, director of educational programs and resources with the Association of College Unions International.
Last year, Ohio State University opened one such venue in its new student union. The tavern, named Woody's, in honor of its legendary football coach Woody Hayes, advertises beer and wine along with food and soft drinks
A survey by Ms. Beltramini's group last year found that 26 percent of campuses that responded had a bar or tavern on campus.
She said examples from around the country include such schools as California State University, Northridge; Clarkson University; William & Mary; Southern New Hampshire University; the University of North Florida; and the University of Vermont.
At West Virginia University, beer has been sold inside the Mountainlair, WVU's student union, since the building opened in 1968, officials said.
At Chatham, some students interviewed Friday not far from the red-brick cafe said they had heard their peers express interest in having a pub. Their own opinions were mixed.
Some, such as John Wooliscroft, 26, of Edinboro, a graduate student in film and digital technology, had no problem with the idea and agreed that supervised drinking on campus was safer.
"It seems to be a logical decision -- give it to them here, so they don't go off campus and make a mistake," he said.
Others had problems with the idea, including Jessica Charest, 26, from Woodstock, N.Y., a graduate student in creative writing, who said it struck her as inappropriate for an educational setting.
"To me it just seems like a money maker," she said.
First Published September 17, 2011 12:00 am