Cameras to be installed at Willy's Pub
On Feb. 19, the V & W Permits Board voted to install cameras in Willy's Pub.
V & W is the organization that holds the liquor license for both Valhalla and Willy's Pub because Rice University cannot hold its own liquor license, according to Director of the Student Center and Campus- Wide Programs Boyd Beckwith. Beckwith, the president of the V & W board, said the decision came about because of concerns about Pub's adherence to regulations.
"[The board's] primary directive is to protect the license," Beckwith said. "There were concerns about bartender and patron behavior [at Willy's Pub.] We regularly get allegations about bartender behavior, some of which we know are blatantly false. We want to believe the employees of Pub so [the cameras] will actually help us to either confirm or deny these allegations regarding service at Pub."
Beckwith said the V & W Permits Board was established in 1990 when Texas state law changed to say that an individual can no longer hold a liquor license.
Beckwith said the board is made up of himself, Assistant Director of Student Businesses Kerim Davis, Assistant Director of the Wellness Center Marissa Howat, Director of Risk Management Renee Block, and three General Counsel members and four student representatives including the Willy's Pub General Manager, the Valhalla Treasurer, a Student Association representative and a Graduate Student Association representative. The SA and GSA representatives are non-voting members, Beckwith said.
Pub General Manager Helene Dick said there will be four cameras installed: one by the entrance, one by the back room and two behind the bar.
Dick said she voted against the decision to install the cameras.
"The [Willy's Pub] management team was opposed to the decision," Dick, a Martel College junior, said.
"Willy's Pub represents a safe place to drink on campus. We don't want to discourage people from coming."
Dick said Pub already has security measures in place to protect students.
"All bartenders are caregiver trained and [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] certified," Dick said. "They're here on the job to make sure you are being served safely and per the law."
Beckwith, however, said the cameras were intended to protect bartenders.
"It's an industry standard," Beckwith said. "If students were to go to pubs in the village, they'll see that they have cameras around the bar area. Many bartenders appreciate the ability to see what's on camera."
Dick said the cost of the cameras, including installation, was estimated at $3,000.
According to Beckwith, the cost of the cameras will be covered by a budget of $10,000 to $15,000 that the student center previously granted to Willy's Pub for renovations.
"[The renovations budget] is money that the student center said it would provide to Pub to help it go to its new business model," Beckwith said. "Clearly, [the cameras] are a priority, because if they lose their license, they don't have a business model to go on."
Dick said Willy's Pub had other plans for renovations before the camera decision was made.
"We had tentative plans for more booths and possibly purchasing a pool table," Dick said. "Those renovations are now up in the air."
However, Dick said she did understand why the V & W board made the decision.
"From my understanding, it's in V & W's best interest to try and proactively protect its [alcohol] license," Dick said. "The goal is to ensure bartenders are observing TABC and V & W policy. While it would have made good reality TV, there will be no cameras pointed at the general patron areas. The cameras are there to primarily observe the bartenders employed by V & W."
Beckwith said the student center and the V & W board has Pub's best interests in mind.
"We know there's a concern that students will think it is big brother trying to get them in trouble," Beckwith said. "[Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] officers have visited pub in the past, and we're really just trying to protect the license and the employees. We don't want them to do anything that will jeopardize their careers post-Rice. We'd rather keep Pub doing the right thing for years to come rather than do something that could potentially take the license away."
Jones College senior Michael Huang said he understands the reasoning behind the decision and hopes that the cameras will be used appropriately.
"I think they're definitely going with the correct approach because there's so much awareness of the alcohol problem on campus," Huang said. "But it's good they're only looking at the cameras when they need to. It's important [to not be] over-aggressive because you don't want to make an uneasy atmosphere, especially for student-run businesses."
McMurtry College junior Bili Yin says that she is concerned about the cameras affecting Pub's business.
"I do think [the camera installation] will decrease underage drinking, and from the perspective of SJP, the administration, and those concerned with safety, that's a good thing," Yin said. "But I also think that Pub could potentially lose a lot of business, and I don't think the student body wants that. The relaxed, laid back atmosphere is part of the reason people love Pub so much, and I think that will be compromised by the cameras."
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