EDITORIAL: If we had student bars, I bet there’d be less news about party breaches

EDITORIAL: If we had student bars, I bet there’d be less news about party breaches

There is no student bar this year. That’s a first for Dunedin, as far as I can tell. 

See, student bars are like whales. In the mid 1800’s, Pākehā settlers set up shop on the peninsula and hunted migrant whales by the boatload until they learned to avoid Dunedin. By the 1860’s, they were gone. So, if you were a child born into this newly whale-less Dunedin, you’d have no idea what you were missing. You’d have no idea how much fun the whales were, how good they were for the economy, or what a healthy whale population can do for the city. Today, you are those whale-less children. Your Dunedin, for the first time in a long time, has run out of student bars. And you shouldn’t think that it’s normal.  

Dunedin’s student bars were places where you could expect $2 drinks and a crowd full of people your age. No creepy old men, just creepy young men. These venues were hunted down by property managers, foreclosures and occasionally by the Uni. And while the bars were most certainly not safe, I reckon they were a lot safer than the alternative we have today. 

Today, we host flat parties. We do this because they’re cheap, they’re nearby, and we can mostly control who shows up. Student bars used to provide these same things. You could walk two blocks, get on the piss, spend as much as you would on a box, and not have to clean up the mess. Local businesses made money, and local cops could monitor one pub instead of 20 flats. 

And that brings us to Omicron. Flat parties during O-Week have been all over the news for breaching capacities and avoiding contact tracing (I’m looking at you, London Street), but people are only having flat parties because they have nowhere else to go. Sure, even with student bars, there would’ve been breaches, and a lot of flats have been following the rules. But if we had a comfortable place to drink, within our budget and near campus, I’m sure that many would’ve picked the pub over a flat party. Besides, it’s a lot easier to guarantee scan-ins and capacity limits at a genuine business than at some dingy student hovel. 

Student bars are important. No, they’re not good for your health, and no, they won’t discourage students from acting like students. But they’re safer. They’re much easier to monitor. They’re better for local business. And for many of us, they’re a hallmark of the Dunedin student lifestyle. Just because you’ve been born into a Dunedin without a student bar doesn’t mean that you should accept it as normal. It’s not normal, and you should want to change it.

In the past few decades, local conservationists, lawmakers and iwi have worked to bring whales back to Ōtepoti Dunedin. Today, it’s one of the best places in the country to see whales in their natural habitat, and you should go if you haven’t already – it’s easy and cheap. My point is this: it’s not impossible to bring something back once it’s been lost. You just have to remember why it was important in the first place, and you have to be vocal about wanting to see that change. Work with your Uni and your city to find a solution, because trust me, you’re gonna get sick of cleaning up vomit real quick.

This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2022.
Posted 2:27pm Sunday 27th February 2022 by Fox Meyer.