Starting in May, no one under 19 will be allowed into club nights at TwelvEighty.
The rule change does not apply when the campus bar is acting “in the capacity of a restaurant or a bookable venue.” Campus groups that book the space for an evening event, then, could invite students of all ages.
But when TwelvEighty is operating normally as a nightclub, which it typically does on Thursday nights, no minors will be permitted to enter.
“We’re going to have a little shift in how we operate the nightclub now. Time will have to tell what that means in terms of our operations, in terms of our reach,” said Derek Spekkens, service manager at TwelvEighty.
The change was made at the Nov. 25 Student Representative Assembly meeting, where members decided that the risks of letting 17- and 18-year-old students into the club outweighed the rewards.
The original proposal was to make the change effective Jan. 1, but members were wary of upsetting current underage students and preferred to wait until a new crop of first-years come to McMaster.
Currently, the bar allows a maximum of 25 underage patrons in at a time on typical club nights.
Before Spekkens and other members of the management took over, around when Quarters was re-branded to TwelvEighty in 2009, up to 50 minors were permitted to enter.
He explained that, to make the club nights more manageable, that number was decreased, and all patrons (not just underage ones) were given coloured wristbands to help bartenders make age distinctions. Alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic ones are also served in different sized cups so that security can tell if a minor is holding an alcoholic beverage.
“There have been steps to try to improve the offering and still keep it inclusive,” said Spekkens. But now that the SRA has made the change, “it will be our challenge as managers to keep this place a thriving business entity.”
Even the limited allowance of minors has made the bar particularly popular among first-year students living in residence, many of whom would not otherwise be able to go to a nightclub.
A memo to the SRA from its Operations Committee, though, expressed concern that minors “create an added working pressure for staff that is a drain on time and resources” and that TwelvEighty takes on the liability of first-years coming into the bar, many of whom might have consumed alcohol beforehand.
The memo also pointed out, though, that despite frequent visits by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, TwelvEighty hasn’t received a license suspension since 2007.
Under current operating policies, a minor “found consuming alcohol, in possession of alcohol, or show[ing] signs of past consumption of alcohol” must attend an alcohol awareness seminar and be barred from the club until their twentieth birthday. According to the memo submitted to the SRA, enforcement has been lax on these and similar penalties.
Spekkens acknowledged that the alcohol awareness “should be more robust … It’s definitely not something that TwelvEighty has been structured or directed to run.”
Spekkens did, though, point to the multiple levels of security, both in the bar and on campus, that allows TwelvEighty to provide a safe environment at club nights. “The purpose of being in this environment is to come of age and learn about responsibility and consequences,” he said.
All-ages or not, the TwelvEighty management team will continue working to offer students a positive experience.
“At the end of the day,” added Spekkens, “do students remember that third-year calculus class, or do they remember that amazing Halloween party they had at TwelvEighty?”