Thirsty Thursdays, frat parties and all-night ragers—all of these typically have alcohol in common.

UCafe didn't use to be the only bar on campus. (EFAL SAYED / THE STATESMAN
UCafé was not always the only bar on campus. (EFAL SAYED / THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook is not a dry campus. Students who are of legal drinking age are allowed to consume alcohol and store it in their rooms.

They are also granted access to the one on-campus bar—the University Café.

The UCafé may be the only on-campus bar currently, but that was not always the case.

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During the 1970s and 1980s, there used to be more bars on campus.

These bars used to be in the residence halls. “If my memory serves me correctly, there were two in H-Quad, one in Mendelsohn Quad, one in Kelly and one in Roth Quads,” Dean Jerrold Stein said in an email.

Up until 1984, drinking was legal for those younger than 21. The current national age was put in place by the National Minimum Age Drinking Age Act, which was signed by former President Ronald Reagan on July 17, 1984.

Prior to this, states each had their own laws with minimum drinking ages ranging from 18 to 20 years of age.

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In New York, the minimum drinking age had been 18 until 1982, when it was raised to 19. It officially became 21 in December 1985. These changes continually gave and took away the ability to drink for many college students.

“I would surmise that there was more consumption when these bars were operating on campus and the legal drinking age was 18,” Dean Stein said.

“We were 18 and legal,” Joanne Cameron, class of 1987, said in a Facebook message. “And then, suddenly, we couldn’t drink legally again because the age changed to 21 and we were caught in the middle.”

But this did not stop students. “Even ‘good’ kids fudged licenses to return to the parties they used to attend,” Cameron said.

Students would also go to parties that were held in the Union Ballroom. “If any semblance of id[entification] was shown (legit or not), students were allowed in for beer and boxed wine and dancing,” Cameron said.

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In 1975, the Union used to hold Beer Blasts, monthly parties with drinks and dancing. The May 7, 1975 issue of The Statesman showed an announcement for a Beer Blast Saturday, June 14 at 9 p.m. It was free for those with an S.S.1 I.D. and others paid 50 cents. The announcement listed beer on tap for 25 cents.

“There was an official campus bar/club that we went to a few times when we were legal drinking age, we’d go to dance,” Sharon Ellis, class of 1987, said in a Facebook message. “I don’t recall the name of it, it was in or near the Union, I believe that it wasn’t a full-time club, I think they set it up periodically for parties.”

In the Union, which is where the University Café is located, used to be the Rainy Night House. It was a coffee house in the basement, but it also served beer and wine. There were performances held Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m.

“There was a bar downstairs in the old Union that upperclassmen tended to go to,” Cameron said. “I remember feeling old when we hung out in there, listening to people that played guitar or sung songs. We ordered drinks.”

Now, the UCafé puts on shows and performances for those 21 and over.

“The UCafé is where people go to listen to good music and shows,” Andrea Charidemou, a sophomore psychology and sociology major, said.

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Charidemou is an intern for Stony Brooklyn, which is a program through the Graduate Student Organization that holds concerts—many of their shows are based in the UCafé.

In the past week, two bands from Brooklyn have performed.

Wednesday nights are Jazz Night, where anyone over 21 can perform jazz music. There are also Long Island bands that perform, open mic nights and karaoke events.

“The UCafé is like the unsung hero,” Charidemou said. “Whoever knows about it goes, and whoever doesn’t finds out through a person or an obscure flier.”

However, since everyone must be 21 or older, a lot of younger people cannot attend the shows or enter the UCafé.

“It’s important for a school organized bar not to have underage drinking,” Charidemou said.

The basement of the Union also once boosted a billiard room, a bowling alley and a restaurant called End of the Bridge, which had a cocktail lounge in it.

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Parties were also held in the dormitories on campus.

“I do remember having parties in our dorm (Ammann) when I was a freshman and sophomore. They used to put a liner in a garbage can and mix up vodka and fruit juice,” Ellis said. “You could get access to drinks even if you weren’t legal drinking age.”

Cameron describes similar dorm parties.

“The dorms had parties. I remember Halloween parties in the main lounge of Ammann Hall. Definitely beer and probably wine there as well,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “Then, there were End Hall Lounge Parties where it was dark and LOUD and there were kegs of beer.”

“I remember the beer on the floors in the end hall lounge,” Cameron continued.

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2 comments

  1. Here are the bars I remember from 1982: H Quad Benedict had the Saloon, aka “Sasson”, right next to the Lachmann’s Meal Plan Cafeteria . Disco in the late 70s, with the occasional band. As a Benedict resident one year, this was a good place after a night at the library. H Quad James basement had the James Pub. Wooden picnic tables, pitchers of Heinekins for $5. Always a good crowd. My favorite for tipping a few and shooting the breeze with my hallmates. G Quad Irving had Baby Joey’s for cocktails, not my place. Tabler had Sanger Wine and Cheese, too snooty for me. Roth Quad had a drinking place whose name eludes me. Kelly Quad, too (Harpo’s ? Or was that the ice cream joint they had?). Old Chem Building did indeed have the GSO Grad Student Organization Lounge. Bottled beer, darts. Kind of quiet. Student Union basement had Rainy Night House. Good for bagels, sandwiches, bottled beer, and schmoozing. Best of all, Stony Brook had the annual Oktoberfest in the Tabler Cafeteria. A weekend of insane drinking. Big crowds, bands, stacks of kegs of fine beer, and late night revelry. All these places gone but not forgotten. Tip of the hat to my many drinking buddies over those years.

  2. From 1981-1985, I fondly remember Baby Joey’s, in the basement of Irving, and the GSO Lounge in the old chemistry building.

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