It appears a shiny new appearance is not all that's different about the Den. In case you haven't seen the other articles in this week's Gauntlet, drinking time has now been cut back by a full hour each night in response to violent-although not necessarily drunk-Den patrons.
The most recent of these incidents involved the beating of a Campus Security officer who has not yet returned to work. On Dec. 1, two non-students were fighting outside MacEwan Student Centre, surrounded by a group of five more non-students. When it became apparent that one of the combatants was getting seriously injured, an officer tried to intervene. The surrounding group immediately jumped in and beat the officer to the point where an ambulance was needed.
What's worse is this incident isn't the first assault on the people charged with protecting the university community. This is the latest and most injurious of five direct assaults on Campus Security officers by Den patrons. As Students' Union Vice-President Chris Kerr tells you in this week's SLC View, violence-especially of this nature-is unacceptable on campus. No debate there.
In response to the attacks, the Alcohol Policy Committee of the University of Calgary has decided to limit the amount of time that people have to drink-whether you're drinking responsibly or not. It is a reasonable measure, yes, but it should remain a temporary one. Cutting back the drinking time is not a final solution.
Unfortunately, shutting the bar down at 12 a.m. on weekdays or 1 a.m. on weekends will only cause patrons to head elsewhere in search of alcohol. Common sense dictates that if they get booted early enough, they'll still be looking to drink. They might even use their cars to get there and then who knows what could happen next? Wouldn't it be better to keep them at the Den and allow them to finish their night there?
Above all, what happens next is the SU's problem. As the operator of the Den, the SU is liable for the safety, and to an extent the behaviour, of its patrons, even after they leave. The SU is also responsible because of its choice to change the Den from the dank cave it once was into the nightclub it now is. At a capacity of 740 people, a shift of six Campus Security officers cannot reasonably handle the patrons at all times. Campus Security officers are not a crew of nightclub bouncers, nor is it their job to be such. Yet, it appears that the SU expects this of them when they release their intoxicated patrons onto the campus.
Legal precedent indicates that if someone goes to the Den, drinks oneself silly and then injures other people in a car accident, the SU can be held responsible for not serving its alcohol responsibly. Examples abound of how establishments have been held responsible for thousands of dollars of damage after their intoxicated patrons caused car wrecks. Perhaps the SU could even be deemed responsible if one of its patrons beat someone to death. They could be held liable because they let said patrons drink too much.
Most people can and do drink responsibly. The solution here is further SU security measures. An increased security presence inside and outside the bar are necessary. Perhaps Campus Security staff and Den staff require training on how to handle the crowds of a larger club-something new to both given the Den's increased capacity and new feel. Cutting back the hours creates about as many problems as it solves and therefore is a measure we can do without.