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The Owl pub at the U of R.

The Lazy Owl was first opened at the University of Regina in 1967. Since then, the campus bar, now better known as the Owl, has undergone many changes.

In the near future, there may be another shift as Devon Peters, University of Regina Students' Union (URSU) president, works to include underage students as patrons at the venue.

“We’ve been trying to create an all-ages atmosphere,” said Peters. “We’re trying to make the space more inclusive for all the students.”

Peters said URSU is currently trying to get the Owl reclassified as a restaurant during the day. For the past six months they’ve been engaging in negotiations with Campus Security, which is the department in charge of permit-issuing at the university.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has legislation that Peters said will solve their current dilemma. A restaurant can be awarded a tavern endorsement and a minor’s endorsement. This means, according to the SLGA website, “minors may be present as non-drinking patrons during restricted hours or as employees in the main restaurant, patio, or banquet room”. This only applies before 8 p.m. and minors may not buy or consume alcohol. As employees, they cannot participate in the sale of alcohol or handle it at any time.

“We’ve been unable to convince the University that similar principles could be applied to our venue,” Peters said.

To accommodate students under the drinking age, at least half of the concerts so far this year have been held in the multipurpose room. They have had the doors between the multipurpose room and the Owl open for these events with securtity checking IDs of those entering the bar, according to Peters. Due to costs, he said this isn’t a permanent solution.

“We’re hoping to continue those discussions so that maybe moving forward, next year or down the road… we could offer all ages events in The Owl proper.”

Peters refers to venues in Saskatoon such as The Odeon, which holds all-ages events regularly. Wristbands for majority age individuals are used, along with other strategies.

A change in the student demographic, especially for those living on campus, has pushed this change, according to Peters. He estimates that as many of 700 students living on campus are underage, including one tower of 400 students that is completely underage and has been labeled a dry dorm.

“There’s a significant part of our student population that’s 17 or 18 years old,” said Peters. “With more of them living on campus than ever, it’s really important that we give those students a safe place to be in.”

Because of this, Peters said they’ve been stepping up to the plate by providing more evening programming.

“(We’re) trying to fill that need because that’s what a student’s union is for, after all,” he said.

Katie Mackenzie and her friend Nikiah Wood were having lunch at the Owl Wednesday afternoon. They were surprised by the possible change.

“It’s kind of weird,” said Mackenzie. “I’m guessing that’s just to increase their sales because they’re losing money every year.”

“I think it would be a bad idea in the sense that it would be easier for the minors to get access to alcohol,” said Wood. “Like, it would just be easy for someone just to hand a beer to them.”

“But if you’re looking at it in a business sense, then yeah, it would definitely bring money to the Owl and increase the profit.”

Jason Szarkowicz said he thinks it could be successful.

“I’ve seen it done elsewhere, like at the Exchange, and it seems to work fairly well,” he said. “It allows more people to come in to the area.”

“Obviously there should be times when it’s older-only like if they have specific events, kind of thing, but if it’s a general event I think it’s a good idea.”

Clark May agreed.

“That would be okay because you’ve got a lot of university students who aren’t of age yet so I’d have no problem with that.”

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The Owl first obtained a full-time liquor license in 1983. Then-manager Mike Burns said they had a choice between making it a private club, with the option for underage attendance, or a full-time bar.

Up until that year they used special occasion permits to host events. Three times a week, the maximum number, they would serve alcohol with Saturday nights being labeled as “pub nights.” Thursday nights featured live bands and no underage patrons were permitted.

“It was an alternative to the night clubs in the city,” said Burns.

He said it had a different atmosphere than other clubs. They even had hookah pipes on the tables sometimes.

“It was a den of iniquity you could say,” said Burns.

Burns still remembers people sneaking into the university pub underage when he was attended the university, but he doesn’t think it’s a place for minors.

“I don’t think it’s really in the mandate of the university to look for more options for people under 19 to find a way to drink,” he said. “There are plenty (of opportunities) as it is so I don’t really think it’s in their best interest, or the Students' Union’s best interest, to create an atmosphere for more liquor to be given to kids.”

His advice? Setting up more all-ages concerts, and possibly looking at other venues to host. He said in the past, the Students’ Union used the Education Auditorium as well as Darke Hall, at the College Avenue campus.

“A lot of people don’t mind not being able to drink at a show…if it’s a really good show,” said Burns.

The age of majority in Saskatchewan is 19. SLGA could not be reached for comment. University of Regina Security director Pat Patton said she has not been approached on the issue.