By Austin Lipari ’13 (J.D.), ’10 (B.A.)
Last month the friendly neighborhood tavern Colonel Brooks served its last drink and shut its doors forever. Beyond losing an icon of Brookland culture, our school is now deprived of a place where all the segments of Catholic University can enjoy a meal and a pint together. In a university-wide letter President Garvey recently endorsed a plan, originally floated five years ago, to create a pub on campus (tentatively called “Murphy’s”). In the wake of Colonel Brooks’ closing, the school should seize the moment and follow through on its plan to build a gathering place that will foster school spirit and revitalize our sense of community.
Colonel Brooks leaves behind an impressive 30-year legacy as a go-to watering hole for the university community. Within its walls, I often saw a table filled with priests and nuns seated next to a noisy group of undergraduates, while professors ordered a drink at the bar. In its absence, Catholic University should take charge and establish a new place where undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty can enjoy a beer together in a cozy atmosphere.
School officials need only look to recent history to see the kind of impact an on-campus pub can make. In days past, the university had a bar on campus known as the Rathskeller. The Rat — as it was affectionately known — was a major part of the Catholic University experience for several generations of students, charging thirsty students $0.30 for a draught beer. Decades later in the early 2000s, the bar was closed and the space was taken over by the Office of Housing Service. But with the campus bookstore moving out of the Pryz and into one of the newly constructed buildings, President Garvey has said the school hopes to fill the freed space with a pub.
“Once we reclaim the territory the bookstore occupies in the Pryz, we hope to create a gathering space for students, faculty, and staff that will provide a pub-like atmosphere, similar to the Rat that once existed in what is now Father O’Connell Hall,” Garvey said in a letter the university circulated in August.
Building a pub now is also a great opportunity for the university to improve its on-campus dining, which was recently ranked the 17th worst among universities across the country. Quality food should not be mythical creature on CUA’s campus — and a pub menu that boasts meaty, juicy hamburgers and pub grub like fish and chips would be a good start to reversing the current trend. The beer selection should include the basics — Budweiser, Coors, etc. — and craft brews like Brookland’s own Chocolate City Beer.
Cultivating the right kind of atmosphere is an art form, and current plans for Murphy’s pub raises questions about how far a departure the pub will be from the Pryz’s drab, grey status quo. Based on the blueprint, it looks like the university plans to throw some bar stools and pool tables into the space and call it a pub. While an impersonal pub is better than no pub at all, a warmer and more welcoming feel can be achieved with a few minor tweaks. Booths would go a long way toward this end. They are comfortable, cozy, offer some measure of privacy, and can fit a group. A well thought out paint scheme — perhaps with green as the primary color — would also add to its charm.
The university should strive to create a top-notch pub, perhaps something along the lines of the Dubliner downtown — another popular destination for the CUA community. Or alternatively the English pub (which many CUA undergrads experience during study abroad) could serve as a model in its role as a community gathering place, restaurant and bar. While Brookland is not England (and the Pryz doesn’t have a thatched roof), the new university pub — if properly thought out — could be a warm, welcoming place for the entire Catholic University community.
I’m sure I speak for much of the student body in applauding President Garvey’s initiative and encouraging the school to make the long-planned Murphy’s pub a reality.