Citing incidents of past unruly behavior at graduation, Cal Poly and city officials have asked San Luis Obispo bars to stop opening early on commencement weekend for pre-graduation “pub crawls” — a longstanding tradition among seniors.
The SLO Downtown Association — which promotes downtown businesses and activities — received the request in an April 16 letter from Mayor Jan Marx and Keith Humphrey, the university’s vice president of student affairs.
For years, several bars downtown have opened for the revelry at 6 a.m. on commencement days, typically two or more hours sooner than they usually open their doors.
As kind of a parting hurrah, seniors consume alcoholic drinks before heading over to their ceremonies, which begin this year at 9 a.m. June 14 and June 15.
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“People like to come and have Bloody Marys, often with their family members, but sometimes just with their friends,” said Jryus Veurink, a bartender at Black Sheep Bar & Grill. “I think students are going to have a good time around graduation no matter what. This (idea of not opening early) is a little absurd if you ask me.”
But Marx and Humphrey wrote that over the past several years, Cal Poly has seen an “increase in the number of students who have become intoxicated, disruptive and disrespectful.”
“All too often, the commencement ceremonies are overshadowed and become unsafe due to the conduct of intoxicated students who have visited city bars prior to the ceremonies,” they wrote in the letter. “This ultimately spoils the moving graduation experience for others.”
Their request is that the bars open at 9 a.m. on both graduation days. Students are required to be in attendance of the ceremonies at 8 a.m.
Humphrey acknowledged that the businesses don’t have to comply with the request, but he hopes they will. He said universities such as UC Davis and Fresno State have similar agreements with their local community bars.
Downtown Association executive director Dominic Tartaglia said in an email the organization currently “does not have a response to the letter.”
“We do have a protocol that we will be following in regard to how we address and discuss issues as they arise,” Tartaglia said. “ I have invited (Marx and Humphrey) to my office to have further discussion about the matter.”
Students on campus Thursday reacted with mixed feelings about the possibility of bars closing their doors to pre-graduation celebrations.
“I see it as one last thing to do here in San Luis Obispo as a kind of send-off before leaving,” said Alfredo Huerta, a junior civil engineering major. “I think it would be kind of dumb to get too messed up before graduation. I think a lot of people see it as a fun thing to do, and a tradition here.”
But freshman agriculture communications major Jack Oswald said that by the time he’s a senior he wouldn’t care if the tradition were still alive or not.
“I think I’d have my family in town, and I probably won’t be going to bars in the morning that day,” Oswald said. “It’s not something that I’d do.”