Life Divided: College Bars

Bessie Yuill and Joanna Lonergan debate with no holds barred

Pro College Bars

Bessie Yuill

Maybe your college bar is genuinely nice enough to pass for an actual pub, like Queen’s. Maybe your college drink has a legendary reputation, like the ‘Cross Keys’ of St Peter’s or the ‘Power Pint’ of Merton. Maybe it closely resembles a spaceship’s cafeteria, like my own beloved Keble. But college bars provide the ideal spot for an evening when you’re feeling lazy but still determined to exercise your right as a student to mid-week drinking.

Not everybody is equally committed to the demands and vagaries of the sesh, and that’s perfectly natural! It’s understandable that not all of us want to make a holy pilgrimage just to offer ourselves to the sesh gods at Park End. That’s where college bars come in – they’re here for us when we just can’t muster the energy for a proper night out.

If you’re a second or third year, you probably also want a place where you can drink while still dressed in the clothes you ate, slept, and cried in after yet another traumatising essay crisis. There’s no chance of running into anybody you’re chirpsing here, since you’ve already either got with or given up on any potentials from your own college. Therefore the college bar is the perfect half-way spot for being social: you don’t have to actually put any effort in, but you also don’t feel as ashamed as you would getting paralytic in your room by yourself (like you did last week).

The proximity of a college bar also provides a crucial health benefit. There is no way for you to be distracted by a kebab van on your way home if you’ve stayed in college: the siren’s call of late night cheesy chips will go unheeded. So in a way, getting so drunk at your college bar that you can’t make it out is the healthiest lifestyle choice you’ll ever make.

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Against College Bars

Joanna Lonergan

College bars vary hugely between colleges – Balliol’s watering hole is famously good. The ‘Pango’ at Hertford has the potential to anaesthetise a medium-sized whale, while St John’s disappoints with the unimaginatively named ‘The St John’s College’. Someone obviously put a lot of thought into that. But even if you can overlook the standard 70s decor, make your way around the sticky bits of the floor, find a seat that doesn’t have a suspicious stain on it and be done by 11pm, you’ll still be in for what can only be described as a fairly average night.

Want to meet someone new? You won’t find them in your college bar. The college bar reinforces the divide between ‘town’ and ‘gown’. We’ll confine ourselves to this dimly lit room, and they’ll keep to their Oxford pubs – no eye contact has to be made, and certainly no mixing. It’s this exclusivity which is detracting from local business. There are over 23,000 students at Oxford – that’s a lot of potential business for the city’s locals, and much of this is being snatched by the college bars. Why would you hide yourself away in a dingy basement horribly close to the library, when you could break free and explore the many pubs and cocktail bars that Oxford has to offer?

Yes, the college bars are subsidised. Great. The ease of simply scanning your bod card means that even when you run out of cash you can keep drinking! But uh-oh, what’s this extra £60 on your ballot? You could have sworn you didn’t drink that much, but then again, you can’t really remember… All things considered, the college bar is an affront to Oxford’s wonderful pub scene: treat yourself and have a pint poured by someone who knows what they’re doing.

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