Here’s to Pub Nights

Below is an excerpt from author Orland French’s book, PIONEERING: A History of Loyalist College (1992). While some references are no longer current, the publication provides a rich report on Loyalist’s history, which helps to contextualize its milestones. To read more from Mr. French’s book, please click here

The “wets” and the “drys”, those political adversaries whose colourful battles have shaped the history of Ontario’s drinking laws, fought a skirmish on Loyalist’s turf. 

The drys lost. 

During the first four years of operation, the College had remained “dry”. Pub nights were held at clubs and hotels in Belleville, but alcohol was not served on campus.

A notice in a student publication in 1971 advertised a Loyalist pub at the Amber Room of the City Hotel: “The Amber Room offers inexpensive beverages, a good jukebox, ample dancing room and coloured (sic) television. The management of the City Hotel is behind us all the way. Your favourite beer is bottled in quarts or prints. Draft beer is also on tap.”

In the fall of 1971, the Board of Governors relaxed the rules. Beer and liquor would be served at no more than two functions a month with special occasion permits purchased from the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario. 

The first on-campus pub night was held in mid-November in the cafeteria.

But a change of attitude at the LLBO shut down the student pubs two years later.

Loyalist is located in Sidney Township and under local option liquor laws, Sidney was a “dry” township. The LLBO decided to grant no more special occasion permits in the dry township, effectively closing the taps at Loyalist pubs. Almost immediately, the College applied for licensing of its pubs and Club 213 under a new amendment to Ontario’s liquor laws which permitted Armed Forces messes, senior citizen residences and colleges and universities to serve alcohol in dry areas.

The “drys” protested. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union lobbied Belleville City Council to object to the application, even though Loyalist was situated outside of the City. The lobby attempt failed, though at least one councillor showed up at an LLBO hearing at City Hall to protest the application. Eleven who objected attended the hearing.

“We don’t want liquor in our schools,” said one. “The students are there to learn.”

The thrust of most objections was that taxpayers should not be funding drinking spots for students.

In spite of the protest, the licence was granted and pub nights have continued since.