Canadian students fight bar closure

February 7, 2003

Students have accused the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, of being heavy-handed after it closed two campus bars following a brutal car-park fight.

The closures came three weeks after a 23-year-old man was badly beaten in a car park close to one of the two pubs at the 20,000-student university.

The Federation of Students, which operates the pub, agreed to meet the administration, which holds the liquor licence, to discuss the incident.

Despite being told by Waterloo's director of food services that the bar was not to blame, administrators withdrew both licences because students refused them a final say in the appointment of a new pub manager.

After 200 students held a protest over the dry pubs, the administrators decided to shut down the establishments on grounds of public safety.

Student federation spokesman Chris Di Lullo said the bars had worked hard to become safe establishments and accused the administration of breaching an agreement by closing them.

The bars had strict policies on over-serving liquor, had introduced measures to counteract underage drinkers and had trained employees in aggression de-escalation.

"Alcohol is always a liability. I understand that. And that's why we took these measures. But the administration is trying to shift the blame by distorting things and putting it all onto us," Mr Di Lullo said.

The decision will put 150 students out of part-time jobs. The bar generates C$200,000 (£80,000) a year in profits that go directly to dozens of student clubs and services.

University spokesman Martin Van Nierop said the university had to ensure the safety of its students by assuming authority over its liquor licence.

Bud Walker, Waterloo's director of business operations, said last month that the university "must be 100 per cent confident that every precaution is being taken to safeguard our students, staff and the reputation of the university and that all liabilities are reduced to the lowest level of risk possible".

Stephen Jarrett, associate general counsel at the University of Western Ontario, said: "There has been a tendency over the last couple of years to find liability on the part of organisations when alcohol-related incidents occur. All organisations are well aware of the liability."

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