Thirsty Work: Looking back at The Pub

Erin  Granger - 10-18-16 Pub 1.jpg

Pub employee, Jack Bennet, serves beer behind the pub’s 14 featured taps. When The Pub opened in 1975, only 3 taps existed. Erin Granger/Sun Star

As the University of Alaska Fairbanks prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, campus’ local watering hole, The Pub, appears by comparison to be just getting started. Over the past 41 years since its opening in 1975, The Pub has welcomed student and faculty alike.

“Different people come in. Different bands play, but The Pub stays the same,” Donald Crocker, current manager of The Pub, said. “I mean we even still have the same chairs.”

Crocker has been manager of The Pub for the past 3 years, before which he worked there as a student.

“When I first started working here there were only 6 taps,” Crocker said. “Now there are fourteen.”

Heather Kraemer, pub manager before Crocker, increased the number of taps and placed a more significant focus on featuring Alaskan beers, a tradition Crocker wants to continue.

Six taps is still twice as many as existed in 1975 when the pub first opened, Jeri Maxwell, former Pub manager, said. Maxwell managed the pub between 1991 and 2002.

The original 3 taps featured Rainier, Guinness and Alaska Brewing company beers on a rotating basis, Maxwell said.

Since opening, beer and food selection has changed but many events remain the same, with focus placed on local music and weekly traditions like pub trivia.

A year after opening, The Pub began serving lunch including soups, sandwiches and a salad bar. The lunch restaurant was called Sir Walter’s after Ronald Walter Keyes, Wood Center director from 1972 to 2001.

It was extremely popular, Maxwell said, but as dining options changed on campus Sir Walter’s was discontinued.

Two major changes The Pub has seen were the raising of Alaska’s drinking age from 19 to 21 in 1984, and the outlawing of indoor smoking in the early 1990s.

“We used to smoke in there all the time,” said Maxwell, who started working at The Pub in 1985. “The ventilation was terrible so it would all just linger.”

Since then, The Pub is placed primary focus on creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment on campus.

“The biggest thing that I’ve always tried to push for with the pub is that it’s a place for everyone,” Crocker said. “I try my best to diversify the events we have here so we can try to include as many different interests as possible. It helps keep alive the sense of community at UAF.”

The Pub originally opened not with the intention to get the student population drunk, Crocker said, but rather to support a culture of responsible alcohol consumption.

Even today, The Pub maintains a wine and beer license and not a liquor license, a choice that Maxwell says makes the establishment a safer place.

Crocker said he feels having The Pub on campus allows for more regulation and keeps students close to campuses and their dorms, lowering the potential for public intoxication and DUIs.

“The Pub is a very safe social atmosphere and I know it’s still this way,” Maxwell said. “The staff has always looked out for the patrons and that probably won’t ever change.”

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