The Wardroom is the quintessential campus bar—but it’s trying to be more.
If the Wardy feels busier than usual this school year, that’s because it is. Besides hosting local bands and planning dance nights, the Wardy’s focusing on creating an inclusive space and organizing educational events.
“I want all students to recognize that this is our space,” says Brennan McCracken, president of the King’s Students’ Union (KSU). As a union-owned and operated business, McCracken is also the Wardy’s spokesperson.
According to McCracken, the KSU and Wardroom staff are working together to broaden the Wardy’s repertoire of events. The goal is to reflect peoples’ different experiences at King’s, and to draw in a diverse crowd. This change was spurred by students’ desire for a wider range of programming in the Wardroom, says McCracken.
In the fall of 2016, Julia-Simone Rutgers posted on the Facebook event page for a Wu Tang themed night that was being held at the Wardroom later in the term.
In the post, she described a previous experience in the Wardroom, where white students would sing along to racial slurs during a Kanye West themed dance party. She went on further to explain the ways in which this made the Wardy feel unsafe and uncomfortable to her as a woman of colour.
The post sparked a multitude of comments from people both in and out of the King’s community with some siding in support of the event and others in support of Rutgers.
In response, Wardroom staff and KSU executives decided to cancel the event and Rutgers met with her fellow KSU executive members and Wardroom staff to discuss how to make the Wardy more inclusive and safe. Rutgers believes that conversation has been put into action this semester.
According to Rutgers, the educational events show that the Wardy is more than a drunken party venue.
“It’s here to be an educational space and a space where we can have open dialogues, have conversations, and I think that’s really important and that makes the Wardroom feel safer,” she says.
So far this semester, the KSU’s been involved in planning a cultural appropriation workshop and a podcast-listening session in the Wardroom. Both events focused on discussing racism and colonialism.
The cultural appropriation workshop stands out as the first educational event hosted by the bar where the bar’s also been open, at least as far as Paisley Conrad can recall.
Conrad is the Wardy’s general manager, in charge of operations. Usually, when panels or discussions are held in the Wardroom space, the bar itself is closed.
McCracken believes that style of educational event—where the bar is open throughout— works well in the Wardy space. It brings in people who are just grabbing a drink, and end up interested in what’s going on.
Funds for both the cultural appropriation workshop and the podcast listening session came out of the Wardy’s promotions budget. Though the Wardy is owned and operated by the KSU, only the hospitality coordinator’s salary comes out of the KSU budget. All other money, to pay staff and organize events, comes from product sales.
Conrad didn’t comment on how much was spent on the cultural appropriation workshop, but says that “we’re treating events like that with equal interest as we are music.”
Another change is the increased selection of non-alcoholic drinks available at the Wardy. You can now buy three types of Tea North iced teas at the bar, for $3.50 a bottle
The tea is brewed and bottled in Dartmouth. For Conrad, supporting a local business was one reason to sell these products. The other was to provide a healthier non-alcoholic drink option.
Is there a link between the focus on educational events and the new non-alcoholic drinks?
McCracken “wouldn’t say its unrelated.” Expanding the non-alcoholic drinks selection is a way to encourage students who are underage or don’t want to drink to take advantage of the Wardroom.
For those who really do just want to drink, take heart: the teas won’t always be exclusively non-alcoholic. Though you can’t mix them with alcohol at the Wardy now, Conrad says it’ll be a possibility next semester. Tea North cocktails might also make an appearance.
For those who really, really just want to drink and don’t feel like having their minds broadened, McCracken says organizers are open to reserving quieter nights—it’s all about what students ask for.
Rutgers hopes the Wardy continues on its educational path.
“There are plenty of places in the city to go and get drunk,” she says, “but to have a space that you can both spend the night partying in some nights, and spend the night learning in some nights, is super important.”