The curious case of the USM pub

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Photo courtesy of PxHere

By Katie Letellier, Staff Writer

When I first moved into the dorms at USM, my mom, who was an alum, mentioned something about a pub that was on campus when she was a student. Nearing 21, and unfamiliar with the campus, I was intrigued by the possibility of an on-campus pub. The pub my mom mentioned was located on the Gorham campus, below the cafeteria in Lower Brooks. It was frequented by students and even employed by student bartenders.

In an effort to learn more about the pub, I reached out to several sources, each unable to provide me with anymore concrete information. No one denied the pub existed, but nearly all of them had a different memory of what it was exactly. Some said it was on the Portland campus and was more of a cafeteria, others said it was just a sports bar near the Gorham campus.

I wanted answers. Did it go away in 1984 when then President Ronald Reagan changed the national drinking age to 21? A move that would have left a fair amount of college-aged people unable to drink legally. Or was my mom pulling the age-old “the pool is on the roof” prank on me? Either way, we can all agree that there is no USM pub now.

On-campus bars aren’t all that unique. Many colleges have had on-campus bars for several years. In recent years however, campus-bars have been sprouting all over the country.

Some campus bars are making a return after a long hiatus. This was the case for St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas who in 2015 reopened a campus bar after 25 years without one.

Other schools are pushing for the return of their campus bars. USM was one of them.

In 2015, a referendum for a bar on the Gorham campus reached 200 signatures, but never came to fruition.

There is evidence that when universities acknowledge that students drink, and provide a place for those legally of age to do it, they are protecting their students’ safety.

The Education Advisory Board published an article in 2017 explaining how universities that created relationships with local bars were fighting sexual assault on college campuses. The bars mentioned in the article weren’t university affiliated, but programs like Raise The Bar have helped local establishments understand and recognize sexual violence in bars and pubs.

In addition, campus bars minimize the risk of drunk driving for students. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 1,825 college-aged people die annually due to impaired driving.

So maybe as USM starts to expand, including the dorms in Portland, the administration might return to the idea of a pub on campus. But first, I hope to be able to find out more about the mysterious pub that once was.

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