Thirsty May Close If No Dept. Accepts Account
The Thirsty Ear Pub will close on June 1 unless it can find an office within the MIT administration that is willing to host the pub’s accounts, said John P. Lock G, the representative from the Graduate Student Council on the Pub Oversight Committee.
Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict and Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert told the Pub Oversight Committee last week that they would not be willing to have either of their offices take on the responsibility of the pub.
Because the Thirsty Ear is on MIT property, it is required to have its accounts held by an office within the MIT administration.
The pub, which is located in the basement of Ashdown House, has been under the control of the graduate student office for the past six months as part of a temporary agreement that will end on June 1.
Gregory S. Pollock G, volunteer manager of the Thirsty Ear, said an agreement was reached in February in which William J. Mckinney, manager of the Muddy Charles Pub in Walker Memorial, would oversee Thirsty Ear operations for the remainder of the term.
“If no home for the Thirsty Ear Pub can be found somewhere within the administration, it’s set to close its doors when the temporary agreement that was set up in February expires” on June 1, Pollock said.
Benedict, Colbert, and Mckinney could not be reached for comment.
Pub committee reviews Thirsty
The Pub Oversight Committee was formed in January to evaluate the “presence and future roles of pubs on campus” and find “a way for the pubs to operate in a way that’s legally responsible and safe for MIT,” Lock said.
“All of the pubs on campus were being reviewed as a result of the new pub being installed in the Stata Center,” Pollock said.
Since then, “the graduate student office has been handling the accounts and providing a manager” for the Thirsty Ear so that MIT would have more oversight of its operations, Lock said.
“The structure has worked very well, but it is not being considered as an option that could be renewed,” Pollock said.
Lock said that Benedict and Colbert told the oversight committee that in addition to not being willing to host the pub’s accounts, “they don’t want the pub to be under any of their umbrellas,” eliminating the housing and dining offices and the Graduate Student Council as possible administrative account hosts for the pub.
“We don’t care too strongly where we end up in the administration, so long as our doors remain open,” Pollock said. However, “all the logical ones are under Dean Colbert or Dean Benedict,” he said.
“A lot of the offices have been reluctant to take on the Thirsty because of issues about oversight,” Lock said. “No one wants to be liable.”
The pub is currently managed by an executive committee composed of graduate students that is a subset of the Ashdown House executive committee, Pollock said.
The pub has been managed by the off-campus housing office in the past, and the housemasters of Ashdown House also used to hold the administrative account. Until recently, all the money had been managed in an outside checking account.
Pub is still ‘self-sustainable’
Pollock stressed that the possibility of closing the pub is not the result of any “irresponsibility” or financial difficulties, but instead the result of the “administration’s unwillingness to support the pub with a permanent home.”
Lock said that the Thirsty Ear is “completely self-sustainable” and is not losing money. “They generally price the drinks to where they can operate a reserve account in case equipment breaks,” and so they can pay the staff, said Lock.
“Even under closer scrutiny, we are covering all of our expenses, even the cost of a manager,” said Pollock. “The pub has shown that it can exist with greater oversight, but that option isn’t even being considered.”
Lock said that Colbert would like to see the Thirsty Ear become part of the Muddy Charles and “wants to see the pub remain open for quiz night, for live music events, and for departmental or private events,” but he doesn’t want it to be open at its current level.
Even keeping the pub open for special events would depend on the manager of the Muddy Charles being willing to take on another pub, Lock said.
The Muddy Charles is not in danger of closing because it is formally a part of the GSC and has a half-time manager, Pollock said.
“There is a perceived stability there,” Pollock said. “The Thirsty Ear is willing to go that structure, and we believe we can support that kind of manager, but we don’t have one currently.”
However, Pollock said that even if Mckinney were to agree to take on the Thirsty Ear, it would still only be open for special events and not for normal daily functions.
“The effort required to keep this running may not be wise if it’s only available for special events and programs,” Pollock said. “As a grad student volunteer, I wouldn’t want to put in the hours I do helping out at the administration of the pub if it were only open for special programs and events.”
“It’s not known if it’s a workable solution,” Lock said. “It does retain the most attended features of the pub, it retains the most important student life benefits.”
Grassroots campaign planned
Lock said that poster campaigns and a petition drive are being planned, and that the pub’s executive committee will be having an emergency meeting today.
“What we want to do is really raise a grassroots effort so that the community has a chance to show Deans Colbert and Benedict how important the pub is and get them to reconsider,” Lock said.
“The real purpose of the Thirsty Ear is to provide a place where members of the community can go after work, hang out with their friends, have a drink, and not be paying the general Boston prices,” Pollock said.
“There’s so much value to the place besides the special programming,” said Pollock. “We provide a service that goes much beyond that.”
Customers would miss Thirsty
Jason R. Brown G, who lives at Tang Hall, said he visits the Thirsty “maybe once a month or so.” Brown, who is graduating in June, said, “I like the place,” and if he were to stay at MIT and the Thirsty were to close, he “would miss the atmosphere and the camaraderie that can be developed here.”
“Since I live in Boston, I don’t come as much,” said Jesse M. Smithnosky ’04. He said if he lived on campus, he might be more upset about the prospect of the Thirsty closing. “I’d be sad if they closed,” he said, but “I wouldn’t stand up and fight for it.”
Much of the Thirsty’s following comes from Monday trivia nights. “Two-thirds of the times I come here, it’s for trivia night,” Smithnosky said. “It’s the only excuse I can think of to go out drinking on a school night.”
“I come here with my girlfriend to play darts,” Akshay Mohan G said. “It’s the only place where they have free darts.”
Mohan said he only visits the Thirsty “rarely,” but “I think it’s the one place I have for hanging out with my friends... when I have to discuss stuff.”
Mohan said that compared to the Thirsty, other bars fall short because, aside from the Muddy, they are off-campus, expensive, and “there are no MIT people.” Meanwhile, he said, the Muddy appeals to an “older crowd” and feels “a little bit more official.”
Smithnosky said he appreciates the informal atmosphere of the pub. “You can just kind of show up and it doesn’t matter,” he said, referring to his t-shirt and wind pants. “It’s a place where you come with your friends and don’t spend $40 when you go out.”
“There’s something to be said for being surrounded by MIT students,” Smithnosky said.
The Thirsty is “a nice on-campus venue for people looking to go out with friends,” Pollock said.
“The Thirsty has a very informal feel,” Mohan said. It’s like “this pub is the home, and that pub [the Muddy] is the workplace.”
Pollock said the Thirsty “offers completely different hours” from the Muddy Charles and possibly the soon-to-open pub in the Stata Center. The Thirsty “appeals to graduate students and older undergraduates,” who often visit pubs at later hours. The Muddy closes at 11 p.m. on weeknights; the Thirsty stays open until 1 a.m. or later.
Jennifer Krishnan contributed to the reporting of this article.