Schwemm’s Hosting One-Day Liquor License Trial
Issue   |   Wed, 02/20/2013 - 01:13

This Thursday, Feb. 21, Schwemm’s Coffee House will be serving alcohol from 8 p.m.-12 a.m. to students who are of drinking age. Schwemm’s has been granted a one-day liquor license for this evening trial.

The effort was spearheaded by the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) President Tania Dias ’13.

“Our goal is to create an alternative drinking scene on campus where all students regardless of age, can interact and socialize in,” Dias said. “Few student activities serve beer and wine, and those that do are in settings that segregate the over 21 room, which isn’t compelling to the entire student body.”

Dias started the project at the end of October. She spoke to Dean Charri Boykin-East about the idea of serving alcohol in Schwemm’s, and she fully supported the project. In November at a College Council meeting, Dias brought up the idea to Amherst College Police Chief John Carter, who looked into the feasibility of getting a liquor license for Schwemm’s. In January, Dias met with a group of staff members to brainstorm what would be required for Schwemm’s to serve beer and wine. The idea was then sent to President Biddy Martin and other senior staff members for their approval.

“I support the effort,” President Martin said. “It is a way of testing the proposition that more openness could foster responsible use of alcohol and expand social opportunities on campus.”

Since then, the group has been working to smooth out logistics for this Thursday.

“Students want an alternative drinking scene where they are treated like adults,” Dias said. “Our aim was to create an environment that abides to the rules, while feeling very different from a TAP or an event with lots of security.”

As of now, Schwemm’s will be serving bottles of Bud Light, Amstel Light, Corona and Sam Adams at $3.25 each, and chardonnay and cabernet at $2.25 per glass. Dining Services is hoping to serve the alcohol at very attractive prices so that students are drawn to having a drink in Schwemm’s, rather than in closed rooms.

“The idea is that Schwemm’s will run as usual, with the addition that for one night students who are of age will be able to buy beer and wine,” said Charlie Thompson, Director of Dining Services. “However, the food will be the same.”

To make sure students purchasing the alcohol are of age, they will have to swipe their ID cards and wear a bracelet indicating that they are of age. There will be security personnel at the door verifying that only people of legal age are able to purchase alcoholic beverages, and there will also be a minimal security presence to ensure drinks are not shared or removed from the venue.

“It is our expectation that this venue will not require a large security presence,” Carter said.

The night will allow organizers to evaluate if events like it will be welcomed in the future.

“Of course, this is a pilot program, and thus logistics may be rough around the edges,” Dias said. “But, it is only by piloting this idea, that we will be able to see what works, what doesn’t work, what students want, and what tweaks we have to make. I’m really looking forward to this Thursday, to see how people will react to this pilot-program. Hopefully, it will be a great success, and can eventually be expanded to not only our student center, but other places on campus.”

Organizers hope that the event could become a weekly Thursday night event, or even an everyday event in the future.

“I would love that this become a natural thing at Schwemm’s where seven days a week, anyone of age could just order a beer with a burger, or drink a glass of wine,” Dias said. “Students, faculty and staff would be able to consume alcohol in a relaxed, casual setting that would promote healthy socializing across ages, drinking habits and different friend groups.”

However, that idea has a lot of work to go through before it can become a reality.

“This is not a done deal. It’s a one-night test. We’ll see how it is received, what works, how much has to go into it, if the space works, etc.” Thompson said. “There are no concrete decisions about this yet. We’ll see how it goes.”

Dias sees the one-day license as a step forward in a year full of confusion when it comes to the alcohol policy on campus, and the repercussions that confusion has had on students and campus social life, and she assures the student body that the AAS is working hard and seriously on improving the social life on campus.

“The perfect scenario is that we have a freestanding pub on campus, and hopefully in the years to come, with all the constructions plans in the works, the school seriously looks into building one,” Dias said. “However, in the meantime, acquiring a one-day liquor license for Schwemm’s is a step forward in the right direction.”