Give me the Senior Bar, or give me death
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 20, 2022
OK, while Patrick Henry’s *actual* quote called for liberty and America’s independence before being executed for treason by the British in 1776, my passion surrounding the concept of an on-campus bar matches Henry’s resolve that still transcends 250 years after his death. For those who are unaware, the Notre Dame Alumni Senior Club, unofficially dubbed the “Senior Bar,” was an on-campus watering hole that stood from 1966-2003 in the spot where Legend’s stands today. The Senior Bar stood to be very popular amongst visiting alumni, and of course, was a regular spot for Notre Dame students of legal drinking age. A mecca of social camaraderie located in a central spot-on campus, the Senior Bar, open Wednesdays through Saturdays, operated directly under the Division of Student Affairs. The bar employed dozens of student bartenders and barbacks and stood to the best work environment on campus. In the spring of 2003, the space became renovated into what is now Legends, and for the last twenty years, Notre Dame upperclassmen have had to resort to urban myths to understand what campus life was like with the Senior Bar.
My connection to the Senior Bar is a personal one, as I have had the great fortune of interacting with eyewitness accounts who first helped establish the bar. In October, I met ND alum and architectural visionary John Buck ’66 who kindly relayed to me his experience in founding the Senior Bar. In 1965, Buck ran for student body president with a single agenda item on his ticket.
“Elect me to represent You and I will deliver an on campus bar.”
Buck emphasized that over 90% of the voting population cast their ballots for his ticket. In his first real estate deal, the University first developed the property as on-campus house/bar, and in 1982, the formal bar venue was constructed. But alas, my story doesn’t stop there. My dad, Steve Viz (Flanner ’89), was asked to be a manager at the Senior Bar in the spring of his junior year. Being a manager of the only on-campus bar had its perks, and I can best describe the experience after I was told about the No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Miami game that took place in October of ’88. After Hurricanes QB Steve Walsh’s pass was batted down in the endzone by Pat Terrell, which sealed the game for the Irish, the good times were on. My dad raced to the bar to prepare himself for the rest of the evening, and around eight hours later, my father was escorted by Notre Dame campus police to the bank at 4 a.m., where he preceded to place over $100,000 in cash into a safety deposit box. Every single student bartender working that night was tipped out at over $1,000. If that isn’t the proper way to celebrate a victory over the number one team in the country, then I don’t know what is.
So sure, stories of legendary victory celebrations are great to reminisce about, but what are we are really missing out on? Well for starters, let’s talk about the current use of The Legends space, arguably the best piece of real estate of campus. The restaurant and concert venue no longer operates in a standard capacity daily, but to demand that Legends be turned back into an on-campus bar can stand to be backwards thinking. Rather, looking critically to see what space on campus could accommodate such an establishment could play to the best of both worlds. Maybe Legends could have dedicated senior nights on the patio with live entertainment? Maybe the large television in Duncan could opt to hold game watches with alcohol included, reserved specifically for seniors and of age juniors? But what I am trying to say is that many seniors on campus have experienced so much in terms of growing into healthy relationships with alcohol, and these healthy relationships with alcohol should be rewarded. Rewarded with a place that is conveniently located, employs student workers and offers deals that cannot be missed.
Since the Senior Bar would report directly to the Division of Student Affairs, profits raised from the bar’s operations could be used for student activity funding. Additionally, some of the most popular bars at American institutions are blissfully located on college campuses, and campus life can thrive because of this. But even location alone doesn’t stand to be the biggest factor to have a such a place on campus. Rather, having an on-campus bar could act to reintroduce Notre Dame seniors back into campus life. Over 80% of seniors move off campus after their junior year, only returning for class and occasional activities. A senior bar could both incentivize seniors to still live on campus, but more importantly give them an atmosphere that they well deserve. Our seniors are a class worth celebrating, and the opportunity for them to do so on campus in a positive manner has been absent since 2003. We should right this wrong and continue to make Notre Dame’s campus a place worth coming back to, for both alumni, and of course, our seniors.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.