Res bars: fun places to meet mates or poor alternatives to a night out?

Danielle Brock and Filipa de Oliveira take a fun peek behind the doors of residence bars.It’s a Friday night. You’ve handed in your last tutorial for the week, eaten another meal in the dining hall and have trooped down to town for your R12 bottle of Crackling. You and your mates have discussed your game plan for the night and are settled down between cupboards, side tables and unmade beds attempting to psych yourself up for the night with some drinking games. Deciding that does not work, you give up and start the long trek into town for the night. 

For most students that is the way the evening begins, every weekend. For others, however, this is not the case and the regular visitors of residence bars experience a distinct and sociable way of starting out the night. If you can relate to the bedroom pre-drinking vibe, for your interest we have the run-down on the most well-known, functioning residence bars.

• Botha Bar

This is the most infamous bar on campus, by far. Botha Bar, or its official name Bengal Rifle Club (BRC), is known for its fun spirit and inclusion of all Botha boys. Part of Founders’ Hall, the BRC can be found in the lower level of Botha house.  At the start of each term the bar is opened exclusively to the Botha boys, thereafter guests may attend by invitation only. What makes Botha bar different from most on campus bars is that it is more of a social club than a bar. Non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic drinks are served and this allows for people of all preferences to enter the bar and have a good time.

“It is for this reason [serving non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks] that I think the bar is so well renowned; it accommodates those who wish to have a quiet beer as well as those who do not wish to drink but wish to socialise with others in res”, Dave Cloete, a Bar Committee Representative, said.

• College Bar
Another well reputed bar is the Toot ‘n Tiger (Toot) found in College House, Founders’ Hall. Opened by former vice-chancellor, Dr David Woods, this bar is around 40 years old and its history is written on the ceiling in the form of the old boys’ names. A well known tradition is the ‘shower-downs’. When the bar first came into operation it opened at 6pm and all the men had to be showered before dinner in order to make it on time for the bar’s opening. Over the years, the bar’s opening time has been shifted later and so, in memory of those who had to rush their showering rituals, anyone who is known to have showered after dinner and before the bar’s opening must down a beer. For all you ladies out there, unfortunately the Toot is not open to you as no women are allowed in.

• Matthews Bar
This bar goes by the name The Bulldog and greets you upon entering Matthews House, Founders’ Hall. The Bulldog is a favourite among Matthews’ boys and a tradition for first years is introducing themselves and kissing The Fox – a walking stick – on their first night at the bar. Random outbursts of Matthews’ traditional residence songs can be heard throughout the night. The bar is open to Matthews boys and their guests.

• Graham Bar
This bar is located within Drostdy Hall and was recently renovated. Known as The Wreck, the bar has been improved with the building of a door that leads to an outside courtyard. Painted red with posters on the wall, a large feature of this bar is the Wall of Shame which displays students in their happiest hours. Although The Wreck does not have any set traditions it is still a well visited bar both during official and unofficial events.

Generally all of these bars are opened on Wednesday and Friday nights between 7 – 10pm and operate by invitation only. The functioning of these bars has shifted over the years due to the changing of liquor laws, and to fit within the legal constraints, the bars do not have liquor licenses and effectively work as a storage facility. Students can, upon request, give money and orders to either their bar representative or senior students who then buy the alcohol. However, according to university rules, this alcohol can only be beer and wine and must be handed out to the student on request by means of a roster. The behaviour of the participants in the bar runs accordingly with the university’s policy and necessary order is kept by the bar representatives.

There are, however, a few issues which have been raised when dealing with the increase in noise levels and promotion of drinking as a result of residence bars. Rob Benyon, warden of Piet Retief house, explains that residences are the students’ homes and should not be a place where heavy drinking can occur. “Residences are great places to meet with friends, chat, have a social drink and watch sport on TV. [They] are not designed to provide a facility where students can come in to purchase alcohol and act like they do in a bar. I’d hate to see what happens at Friars at 3am happen in my res”, he said. He continued by explaining that the real solution lies in finding out exactly what the students want out of a residence bar.  “Parties in residences are counter-productive to the ethos of the residence unless it involves all students,” he said.

Many students feel that residence bars provide a facility where residence comradeship and bonding can occur. Stuart Thomas, first year BA student, from College house supports this idea. “Everyone is equal in the bar and it allows people who don’t normally socialise to mix and get to know one another”, he said. John McNeill, warden of Allen Webb Hall, agrees that residence bars are a positive aspect of campus life.
“When Winchester had a functional bar it was the centre of the residence and I am a strong advocate for the running of residence bars. With the implementation of a proper committee with good management, the residence bars allow sensible, social drinking instead of having to go out”, he said.

Aside from this, many students favour residence bars simply for their convenience. Nicholas Baxter, first year BSc student, from Piet Retief house, a residence which does not have a bar, explains that buying alcohol in town can sometimes be difficult. “I can imagine that I probably wouldn’t go to town and buy cheap Crackling if I knew that I could just have a beer at my res bar.” Many students seem to agree that residence bars are more convenient than anything else and provide an easy and safe way to store and drink alcohol.

On the issue of the possibility of noise levels becoming out of hand, many students and wardens agree that all the noise becomes condensed into one room as opposed to along the corridors. “What I’ve noticed is on nights when the bar is closed and people are getting ready to go out to town there is a lot more noise then when the bar is open because many people use their rooms to pre-drink”, said Michael Rance, second year BA student of Botha house.

Dylan Bradford, a first year LLB student, from Jan Smuts house agrees that sometimes residence bars can drag you away from experiencing the fun that town has to offer.

“It can be bad sometimes ‘cause it keeps you drinking in your living environment instead of exploring into town” he said.

The general feeling on campus is that residence bars promote comradeship, safe drinking and are convenient. While it is logical to understand that certain rules and guidelines need to be followed, there is no reason why residence bars should not continue to function and possibly become even more a part of campus life. So, this Friday, when you’re not in the mood for the usual pre-drinking room party, call up some of your mates who have these bars and experience the fun for yourself!


One Response to Res bars: fun places to meet mates or poor alternatives to a night out?

  1. alda says:

    You rock! Nice article.

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