Alcohol establishments on campus shake, stir drinking culture

More opportunities to get a drink on campus arise with new alcohol-serving establishments such as Pinks Pizza or Calhoun’s Rooftop Bar & Grill. Students should proceed with caution as campus alcohol-related incidents are on a rise. | Kelly Schafler/The Daily Cougar

The first evidence of alcohol is believed to be depicted in Egyptian artwork from 4,000 B.C. In 55 B.C., the Romans introduced beer to the Europeans, sparking thousands of years of early-morning hangovers.

Continuing that age-old tradition, many UH students find alcohol an integral part of their campus life. They seek out places to unwind, one on-campus example being The Den. Commuters can easily spot The Den’s characteristic 50s-style sign as soon as they enter University Drive from Spur 5. When the bar first opened, they coined the catchphrase ‘Lowering GPAs since 12/2008,’ something which may be extending beyond the signs and shirts it once adorned.

Supply chain and logistics technology senior Jonathan Le sees The Den as an avenue to relieving some of the stresses brought on by school.

“It’s nice to be able to let off some steam after a long day or a test you’ve pulled an all-nighter (for),” Le said.

In 2006, before The Den was a campus fixture, the University made a $1 million investment in opening a Chili’s Too on campus, where students could experience a different range of food and alcoholic beverages. Despite being an allegedly more clean and intellectual setting for drinking with classmates the restaurant no longer exists today.

Alcohol-Jimmy Moreland2

Many students, like Jonathan Le, treat The Den as an escape after a long day or difficult exam. | Jimmy Moreland/The Daily Cougar

According to a 2011 newsletter by the University, this closing was due to “waning demand.”

Six years after the opening of The Den and less than three years after the closing of Chili’s Too, UH students have a new go-to hub for drinks: Pinks Pizza. Opened in January, Pinks offers a host of drinks that they call “Cold Libations,” ranging from local micro-brewed beers to just about any well-known drink one could think of.

Biology senior Jason Clark said he goes to Pinks Pizza to get away from what he calls an “Aramark monopoly” that plagues the campus.

“(Pinks Pizza) is outside of Aramark, which allows me things not offered on campus such as Dr Pepper and fair prices,” Clark said. When asked if he ever drank before a class or exams, Clark said that the only test he had a beer before was his physics final.

While Clark may have not felt too worried about his physics final in that case, whether on-campus access to alcohol impedes upon students’ ability to study is brought into question.

Pinks Pizza’s Vice President of Marketing and Design Ken Sheppard said 90 percent of people who attend the busy bar and restaurant are students. Pinks Pizza has already banned two people — one a UH student — due to alcohol-fueled disruptions.

Cody Taylor, one of the lead bartenders, approximates that the Pinks located on campus serves roughly 30 drinks per day during lunch hours. It isn’t clear if this excitement over Pinks Pizza is leading to an increase of drinking habits on campus.

A poll conducted on thedailycougar.com showed a majority of students do not feel like the new alcohol establishments on campus effect their drinking habits.

I feel the recent rise of alcohol-serving establishments on campus (such as Pink's Pizza and the soon-to-open Calhoun's Rooftop Bar & Grill):

  • had no effect on drinking habits (75%, 131 Votes)
  • increased my friends' drinking habits (15%, 26 Votes)
  • increased my drinking habits (10%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 175

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Despite this poll, UHPD reported a 28.95 percent increase in calls to UHPD involving alcohol violations five months after the opening of Pinks Pizza when compared to five months prior. With an almost one-third increase, the campus needs to be prepared for the implications of opening Calhoun’s Rooftop Bar and Grill, slated to open mid-August. Moreover, Calhoun’s Facebook page has advertised the implementation of a ‘College Night’ on Thursdays.

UH students aren’t oblivious to the risks of alcohol consumption. Less than a year ago, a student lost his eye after being kicked in a fraternity common area where students were drinking at Bayou Oaks. Since then, there has been a host of alcohol-related incidents on campus.

Pre-business sophomore Angelica Nunez is concerned with the safety risks associated with an increasing number of alcohol serving institutions on campus.

“I think that although it may seem beneficial to Coogs’ social life, there is always that underlying concern of patrons drinking too much and becoming rowdy and possibly even driving while intoxicated,” Nunez said.

While some students turn to Pinks for a drink, others seek the more relaxing and quiet environment of The Nook Cafe — which also offers beer and wine alongside a more traditional coffeehouse menu. English and creative writing senior Jesse Garcia frequents The Nook Cafe for its quiet environment, and said he goes to enjoy a drink and prepare for an exam.

“I think that although it may seem beneficial to Coogs’ social life, there is always that underlying concern of patrons drinking too much and becoming rowdy and possibly even driving while intoxicated,” Nunez said.

“I go to The Nook to have two to three beers before a test,” Garcia said.

Despite the dangers that arise when alcohol is added into the equation, bars do bring a certain amount of positives to campus. There’s a level of social ease that comes with the environment of these new establishments.

At a bar, it’s easy to find yourself in conversations on anything, really, from the latest FIFA standings to Scandinavian influence on the English language. Bar environments provide a carefree setting where students can engage in conversations with people they normally wouldn’t notice in a mid-day rush to class.

Pre-business sophomore Chris Tobar sees bars on campus as innocent environments where students can have a break from studies and socialize.

“They’re generally fun places to go and watch the game with a couple friends, regardless of whether you go to drink or not,” Tobar said.

With the diversity of this campus, it’s easy to see how one could benefit from meeting someone new and getting to learn a little bit more about this world. Conversations sparked from differing perspectives of social conventions are great learning opportunities, and these chances come across more easily in a bar than an academic setting.

Whether students frequent The Den, The Nook Cafe or Pinks Pizza to have a cold beer after an exam, to hang out with friends or to have a couple shots in walking distance of their abode, the University needs to be cautious moving forward. The imminent opening of Calhoun’s Rooftop Bar and Grill will likely enhance drinking and social culture. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s critical that students are reminded to partake responsibly.

Most importantly, the student body needs to closely examine how campus alcohol culture is changing — for better or worse.

Opinion columnist Kourosh Zakeri is an optometry graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].


  • Kourosh,

    ” UHPD reported a 28.95 percent increase in calls to UHPD involving alcohol violations five months after the opening of Pinks Pizza when compared to five months prior.”

    The difference in student population and attitudes for five months prior to the opening of Pink’s (August 2013) and five months after (June 2014) make this statistic’s relevance dubious at best. Student’s, generally, are in a different state of mind in June than in August, which is more that sufficient to explain any difference in alcohol consumption and violations between the two times. Additionally, both months are primarily outside the school year, with only a fraction of the total student body on campu—so that even if June and August were comparable with each other they wouldn’t necessarily be representative of positive or negatives aspects drinking culture during the fall and spring semesters.

    A fairer comparison would be comparing the entire spring semester to previous spring semesters, corrected for total enrollment, or comparing the entire spring semester to the entire fall semester, again corrected for total enrollment, and placed in context of any historical differences between spring and fall semesters.

    But without a reliable statistical indication that there has been any change in campus drinking’s prevalence or culture, no particular “preparation” can be justified here for the opening of Calhoun’s or that the studentry need to closely examine camus drinking culture—beyond a general and somewhat inane argument for self and cultural awareness generally.

  • Sometimes percent increase can be deceiving and you need raw numbers. An increase from 14 to 18 calls is a 28.5% increase, but would anyone be concerned about 4 additional calls in 5 months?

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