Last call at any licensed establishment usually prompts a tidal wave of people to surge towards the bar for their last drinks of the evening. Patrons spend the last hour guzzling or attempting to sober up, and then gathering their belongings and friends to head out. It's a scene played out in bars the world over and at the University of Calgary campus watering hole it used to take place at 2 a.m.
Things changed on Thu., Jan. 10 at a meeting of the Alcohol Policy Committee where a motion was passed to make last call at the Den occur earlier. The motion was carried by a vote of three to one and as a result the new last call hours are midnight from Monday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz put forth the motion for the new hours due to the increase in violent incidences on campus related to patrons causing problems after leaving the Den.
"In the past six months we've had five security officers and two police officers assaulted on campus," said Fritz. "As a result four required hospital treatment."
Fritz explained that such trends had never previously occurred and he believed he can no longer ignore the security risk. "This pattern of behaviour demands attention," he said. "It's my job to make this a minimum risk situation for officers."
Fritz focused on hours of operation because he felt it would be of help with the negative behaviour of some Den patrons.
"People would be motivated to get up and leave to go to another venue," he pointed out. "And with two hours less drinking time, their politeness and manners would still be intact."
Though Students' Union representatives aren't delighted with the motion that passed, the situation could have been much worse. Fritz's original motion was to have last call at midnight on every night of the week. "The last thing we want to see is people getting beat up on campus," said SU Vice-President Events Chris Kerr. "But we think there are better ways and better ideas to solve the actual problems, which is not the operations and hours of the Den, but the people who come to the Den."
Fritz agreed there is a concern with Den patron demographics as two-thirds of the acts of property destruction and assault committed in the last six months were committed by non-students.
"I would be cheesed off if I was going to the Den every week and having a good time with my friends, not causing trouble and being respectful of the venue," he said. "All of a sudden because of a few stupid people's actions everybody is punished."
Another significant SU concern with the new hours is liability issues related to the increased potential for impaired driving.
"If last call is midnight you're going to try to get hammered as much as possible because the beer is cheap up here," said Kerr. "Then you're going to hop in a car and go to another bar to finish off your night."
During the APC meeting, Fritz countered that the C-train runs until 12:30 a.m., leaving patrons with enough time to take the train downtown to other establishments.
"It may be a great idea in theory, but in practice it never happens," responded Kerr. "People don't always think responsibly when they're drunk."
The SU also has concerns from a business point of view.
"We pay for this bar and we want to be able to use it to the fullest extent that we feel the regulations allow us to, which is until 2 a.m," said Kerr. He added that the lost revenue from closing earlier would have a direct impact on the free services the SU provides, such as Volunteer Services and the Student Rights Advisor, that are funded primarily by revenue from the Den. He also stated the revenue was going towards the extension of Mac Hall and that the loss of money would have an effect.
Both Campus Security and the SU have agreed to review the situation in one month's time and at the end of term to assess whether alcohol related incidences of assault and property destruction on campus have decreased. Kerr said that if there are no incidences he hopes they can possibly look into restoring last call to later than midnight or 1 a.m. Kerr offered his view of the alternative, should things not improve.
"Otherwise you can count on us being back in the Alcohol Policy Committee meeting, filling out incidence reports, and having to worry about last call being even earlier."