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Revisiting an empty keg

Sitting in a restaurant on campus that would have pool tables and tons of televisions to watch sporting events, such as Monday Night Football and USF games. A restaurant that would serve alcohol and food; a place to just hang out, is an dream to some.

But this restaurant is no longer an imagination. It’s a work in progress.

Aramark, the food service provider for USF, is planning the construction of Bulls Eye Sports Pub and Grill as part of its $7.5 million renovation plans for the university’s food services. It would be a restaurant that would serve alcoholic beverages, as well.

Tom Williamson, resident director for Aramark at USF, said the work for the grill is still in the preliminary stages, and so far, there has been a committee put together of faculty, staff and students to weigh all the possibilities.

“The big thing right now is to secure a location,” Williamson said.

He said the location is most likely going to be in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, either the basement or the first floor.

When the contract for food services expired in August, Student Government put together a task force that gathered ideas from students as to what they wanted to see added to the food contract. One of the ideas that was universal among the task force was to have a sports grill, a restaurant that served mostly beer and wine.

The idea for a sports grill/pub isn’t a new idea though. From the 1970s to the mid 1980s, USF had The Empty Keg, a pizza joint that served alcohol. The Empty Keg also was a popular hangout for students to watch sporting events or to sing a tune on open-mic night. But it was shut down.

Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, University Police spokesman, said he thinks the reason The Empty Keg shut down was not because of problems with alcohol consumption but other activities becoming available on campus.

The idea of bringing back a restaurant that serves alcohol on campus raises the issue of a possible increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents on campus, but Klingebiel said he doesn’t think it would.

“It would be a professionally run restaurant/pub and would abide by the law and have professional-type servers as well,” he said.

Klingebiel also said the university would know what to expect from an on-campus restaurant. The university learned from the USF golf course’s after-hours hangout, Rocky’s, a few years back, Klingebiel said.

“We had several instances in relation to underage drinking and rowdiness complaints from neighbors and such,” Klingebiel said. “This would be something the university is not a novice about.”

Yet, on-campus drinking has always been a problem on college campuses. Jason Spratt, coordinator for Student Affairs at Student Judicial Services, said more than 80 percent of referrals on any college campuses involve first-year students and alcohol.

And the police statistics support that claim. In fall 2001, there were 33 liquor law violations, which include arrests and drinking under the influence. In spring 2002, there were 20 and, so far this semester, there have been four violations reported on campus, Klingebiel said.

“The differences between the semesters can depend on the influence that we have when we hammer down on the violations,” he said. “And some of those factors will play in if the statistics increase or decrease.”

Klingebiel said the university is made aware of all instances related to students, through either Residence Services or Student Judicial Services.

“The university then will decide the appropriate action,” he said.

Spratt said the student judicial process follows the sanction guidelines, listed in the Student Code of Conduct, on a case-by-case basis.

“We meet with all the students involved and investigate and then make decisions,” Spratt said.

Klingebiel said most instances involving on-campus drinking violations are at the officer’s discretion and depend on the circumstances.

“We are used (in those instances) as a backup support to the Resident Assistant, and we might ask them how they got it, but all those things depend on whether an arrest would be made,” he said.

Klingebiel said he think a new place similar to The Empty Keg will be a good addition to campus.

Not all agree.

Mark Klisch, a counselor for USF’s Counseling Center, said bringing back drinking on campus would not be a great idea.

“What kind of message does the university want to send to students about drinking?” Klisch said. “The university should model the idea that drinking is not necessary to enjoy everyday life.”

Klisch also said if students want to go out at night and entertain themselves, that’s OK, but alcohol doesn’t need to be a part of having fun.

Nevertheless, with The Empty Keg in the past, Aramark and the task force are moving forward with Bulls Eye. On Wednesday, designers came to campus to look for solutions to the location, finalize plans and determine how much the restaurant would cost the university, Williamson said.

“Ideally, we would like this to be finished as soon as possible,” he said.

Guy Conway, director for the Marshall Center, said Bulls Eye would be more like a Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s rather than a bar or a pub and would not exclude students who are under 21, similar to the policy at most restaurants that serve alcohol,

“It would be a restaurant that would happen to serve alcohol,” Conway said.

Conway said when the idea came up about the sports grill, the thoughts of any problems were not a real concern because, from what he was told, The Empty Keg was not a place like that.

“I haven’t heard of any fights or uses of fake IDs at The Empty Keg,” he said.

“I don’t think there would be any problems with Bulls Eye.”

Contact Stefanie Greenat