SUB Pub Should Move Forward: Let’s Build Community Over Montana Brews

The SUB Pub

Pint-based community-building could become a reality on MSU’s campus. Although the idea is in its infancy, a number of dedicated students have begun pushing to install a SUB Pub in the student union building.

While the concept has been discussed in the past, last fall’s student needs survey produced the “SUB Pub” proposal as one of students’ chief concerns, prompting student government to form an unofficial exploratory committee.

This column proposes an effective model for a tavern based on the success of local microbrewery tasting rooms, like the Bozone’s. As I conceptualize it, the SUB Pub would parallel the brewpubs that dot Montana. It would serve, in short, as a focal point of the SUB, a place where students and staff could meet for almost any reason.

Responsible Drinking

First and foremost, a SUB Pub must encourage responsible drinking, and there are various models under which this might be accomplished. As any connoisseur of Montana beer knows, all brewpubs must limit their patrons to three pints per day and may serve beer only until 8 p.m. This model could easily be enforced in the SUB Pub by using the same drink cards that brewpubs employ, but perhaps the hours could be extended to a reasonable 10 p.m.

The culture of the establishment is also critical in this regard. This proposal in no way advocates a bar (à la Pour House) on campus; instead, it advocates a locally focused brewpub that can serve beer and wine to campus members 21 and over. This tavern would provide an atmosphere everyone can enjoy, instead of an unhealthy bar culture where music is intentionally blasted so loud that customers are forced to drink instead of converse.

As Dean of Students Matt Caires explained, the pub could “teach responsible use of alcohol” by cultivating a “safe” and “self-sustaining” culture. Caires, who served as Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Wyoming before accepting his current position at MSU, mentioned UW as an example. At UW, their on-campus pub serves beer on tap. Patrons come with “no intention of over-consuming,” and even recognizable campus figures are carded. It’s not too much to ask that even President Cruzado show her ID every time she orders a beer.

With a positive, self-reinforcing culture, there is little danger of students over-indulging; on the contrary, there is the very real danger of inspired conversation, keen political insight, new friendships and a growing understanding of responsible drinking.

Campus Culture

The main reasons for proposing a SUB Pub focus on providing an additional, valuable service to students. The potential for open mic nights, a venue for student bands and other events would contribute to maintaining a vibrant campus culture. A SUB Pub would also shine as a possible meeting place for any number of groups on campus.

The myopic notion that universities need to content themselves with an “academics-only” approach fosters a dangerous lack of engagement in students. Participation in sports, clubs and any number of organizations that develop meaningful connections stops students from dropping out. A SUB Pub would deepen ties to campus and community.

While the potential for profit certainly exists — especially in a state that ranks third per capita in both craft breweries and beer consumption — this proposal should be viewed as an an opportunity to enrich campus life and a way to support local breweries (Bozone, 406 and Madison River), and not a profit-churning endeavor for administrators.

The Upshot

Despite initial excitement there is, admittedly, a long way to go. Various interviewees indicated that if the pub idea advances, it will eventually land on President Cruzado’s desk, and then that of the Board of Regents. But, as SUB Director Butch Damberger said, “If the students want it enough, it can happen.”

Student body president Blake Bjornson also expressed support for a responsible proposal, but noted that it will likely require the dedication of a few very focused members to achieve fruition.

In the end, this proposal’s positive contributions to campus far outweigh any stigma associated with college “kids” and alcohol. It could serve as a gathering place for students, faculty and staff members, while supporting local businesses and teaching students about incorporating alcohol into their lives responsibly.

The student body has already spoken by listing this as one of their top four concerns in the recent student needs survey. However, for this project to be a success, students must continue to engage their representatives and work to realize this proposal. In the future, perhaps discussions about improving MSU can take place over a pint of Montana beer in the SUB Pub.