Students of legal age can now drink beer until two in the morning, without leaving campus boundaries, at GW’s revamped University Club. Previously, students who were not members of the club could only attend Thursday night happy hours and other limited events, but now a section of the club is open for student use seven days a week.
The late-night hours and reduced membership fee make the club more accessible to the GW community and should attract more student members, administrators said.
“We really want this to be a place that students and faculty can come to and where alumni want to come back to” said Robert Truelove, director of operations for Catering Solutions, which operates the University Club.
The Riverhorse Bistro, a restaurant on the club’s ground floor that is open to students every day, serves lunch and dinner and becomes a bar at night. Lunch will be served Monday through Friday, and dinner will be served seven days a week.
Students can use Colonial Cash to buy food but not alcohol; however, University officials said they are still debating the issue. Although officials said the club never accepted any form of GWorld payment for alcohol, several students who attended happy hour events last year said they paid with their GWorld cards on several occasions.
The Bistro held its first event Monday night, hosting an after-party on the club’s three floors for the Guster and Jason Mraz concert. More than 200 students hobnobbed and enjoyed $2 cups of Yuengling beer and $4 mixed drinks.
Steve Sordo, the Bistro’s executive chef, said students finally had a place on campus where they could party at night.
“We’re trying to promote an atmosphere for the kids that they can go into and feel comfortable in,” he said. “It’s a place to call home.”
Even the formal rooms, decorated with antique furniture including a table that belonged to President Ulysses S. Grant, have a more relaxed feel, officials said.
Student organizations who have club members can host events there for free, while non-members must pay $75 to $750, depending on which room they want to rent out, Truelove said.
Truelove said the Monday night after-party was promoted and sponsored by a club member who designated the third floor as a VIP room.
Students were carded at the door Monday and given a pink wristband if 21 or older. Some students received green wristbands, which gave them access to a VIP room. Many of the club’s employees are students who work as promoters, bartenders and bouncers.
Senior Norman Pentelovitch, president of the Interfraternity Council and a member of Kappa Sigma, said he hopes to host receptions for his fraternity’s alumni at the club.
Opening up the U-Club to students is a good idea, especially for underage students, who can feel like they’re part of a community,” he said.
Sophomore Dave Stark said the University has offered another option for students looking for a place to go at night.
“It’s classy, it’s a nice reprieve from the messy dorms,” he said. “It’s a place where you can hang out, especially when you’re sick of T.G.I. Friday’s.”
Junior Gil Weiss, a promoter for the Bistro, said it might have a “pre-gaming” event for students, during which they can have a couple of drinks before spending a night on the town.
“Instead of sitting in your apartment pounding cheap liquor before you go out to a bar or club, come here between 9 and 11 p.m.,” Weiss said.
Given strict University policies concerning underage drinking, Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Services Robert Chernak said club employees would be aggressive in preventing underage drinking.
“It’s just like any other location,” Chernak said. “Students will have to show identification to show that they’re 21.”
Chernak said he would feel more comfortable if students 21 and over drank on campus and that the lounge should foster relations among students of all ages.
“We want to create an environment (where students) can socialize together,” he said.
Chernak said GW served alcohol at many events last year and has never had a problem with underage drinking.
The University has cut membership fees to the club, with initial membership fees totaling $65 for the first year. There is also the option of getting club membership for a two-week trial basis, which costs $10. Previously, initial membership cost $500, with monthly fees that often exceeded $100.
Members will have access to special events held at the facility.
The changes come as membership in the club has dropped from 1,000 to several hundred people since it opened in 1999, Truelove said. Administrators cited poor economic conditions for the decrease in membership.
This year, the University ended its partnership with ClubCorp, an outside management company that previously ran the University Club. Catering Solutions, another outside company, now runs the club.