It’s 2013, and the sun sets over the Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU). By this time, most students are done with class and eagerly made their way home. The campus is quiet.
Flash forward to 2016. At the same time of night, the UU is crowded. Freshmen and sophomores watch Monday Night Football at Mustang Station, Cal Poly’s new food and drink hub, alongside upperclassmen who enjoy pints of beer fresh from the tap. It’s a new era at Cal Poly.
Mustang Station, Cal Poly’s on-campus bar that serves beer and wine, opened at the beginning of this quarter. However, questions remain about how the campus environment will change, what alcohol policies look like now and if this is the start of more on-campus pubs.
New policies, new rules
Mustang Station creates a lot to look forward to and brings new rules regarding what students can do in the UU.
However, alcohol policies on the rest of campus will generally remain the same, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Jana Colombini said.
“Nothing has changed on campus regarding alcohol policies since 2013-2014,” Jana said.
New policies were implemented in the 2013-14 school year, allowing alcohol only in certain on-campus locations, such as VG Cafe/Sage Restaurant, the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center and football tailgate areas.
With the creation of Mustang Station, alcohol can now be taken into the seated areas of the bowling alley, but cannot be taken outside into the plaza or upstairs into the UU. There is also the issue of drinking responsibly, and what happens if someone crosses the line.
“I think it’s really important for students to know that you can’t get extremely intoxicated and go to class, because now you’re drunk in public,” Jana said. “UPD does have jurisdiction to walk in there, so you can get in trouble just like you could drinking in neighborhoods.”
Jana said she feels students will treat the rules with respect, and won’t take it to the level that they might at a bar downtown. She doesn’t think students getting too drunk should be a problem.
The push for a wet campus
Jana Colombini thinks the pub is a great start for what she’d like to see moving forward.
“It’s the beginning of an era where our upperclassmen actually enjoy being on campus,” Jana said.
In 2013-14, then ASI President Jason Colombini, Jana’s older brother, made a push to begin transitioning away from being a dry campus. Rules slowly began to change after Jason worked closely with Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong and then-Vice President of Administration and Finance Stan Nosek to create a committee on the matter, Jana said.
Beer and wine were allowed at certain events. Tailgates became popular before football games and alcohol was permitted in certain on-campus apartments where all residents were 21 and over.
Graphic by Katelyn Piziali
“That was a test to see what students would do with that. Would it increase violence and ambulance calls?” Jana said.
The test run went well and from there, ASI worked in collaboration with Cal Poly Corporation to turn Ciao into Mustang Station this past summer.
The start of an on-campus pub
Mustang Station serves as a hub for students and faculty to meet up before and after athletic events or for casual drinks on weekday afternoons. It provides a variety of beer and wine options, but no hard alcohol.
Video by Avrah Baum
“I think this pub kind of give students a bit of that taste of what these big 50,000 student schools are on the East Coast. We’re a bit more conservative in that sense, but I think it’s a nice small start,” Jana said.
While he only has one year to enjoy it, business administration senior Morgan Hathorn agreed that Mustang Station brings a new vibe to campus.
“Something that I envied at other schools when I was looking at colleges was that feeling of camaraderie and college tradition, which I think having a pub on campus brings,” Hathorn said.
Students 21 and older are fortunate enough to immediately be able to take advantage of Mustang Station. For students under 21, like chemistry sophomore Chris Durbin, it is just another reason to look forward to their 21st birthday.
“Even though I’m not 21, Mustang Station is a laid back place to hang out and watch games if I have a late class or something,” Durbin said. “Obviously I am excited to turn 21 though and be able to get a drink on campus.”
For President Armstrong, bringing more amenities like Mustang Station on campus is the beginning of what he called a more 24/7 campus — a place where students will want to hang out other than just go to class.
“We want to be a more residential and diverse campus,” Armstrong said. “My first fall, I talked about bringing more of the world to Cal Poly and taking more of Cal Poly to the world, and that means more international students.”
To attract international students, Armstrong said it was natural to think about bringing features such as movie theaters and restaurants to campus, as well as including places for students to drink responsibly.
With how much Cal Poly has transformed in the last few years, like adding food trucks on campus and redesigning dining facilities such as Campus Market and The Avenue, both students and administration feel that this is the beginning of something new for Cal Poly.
“It is my hope that we will have more than one location [pub] in the future,” Armstrong said.
Like President Armstrong, Jana envisions another pub down the line, preferably closer to Spanos Stadium.
“There’s actually an old powerhouse down there,” Colombini said. “I think it would be really awesome to go in there, make it a full bar, and call it like the Powerhouse Pub. Make it very Cal Poly spirited with green and gold everywhere, hang up jerseys, put up trophies; something that students really connect to where they will be full of pride with their fellow Mustangs.”