As the Phoenix continues to pursue a liquor license for the move to its new location, a few Westdale residents are taking the opportunity to push back against problems of noise and damage caused by drunken students in the area.
A group called Parents Against Drunk Students (PADS) purchased a quarter-page advertisement on page A13 of Saturday’s edition of The Hamilton Spectator, proclaiming that “McMaster Students Want More Alcohol On Campus.” The ad warned that the relocation of The Phoenix will lead to a more rowdy neighbourhood.
“What A Great Idea,” said the ad, sarcastically. “Let’s Increase The Volume Of Drunk Animal House Students Spilling Into Our West Campus Streets.” The ad claimed that the bar has the potential to “make Sterling Street a Party Street,” and made comparisons to the problems with student drinking in London and Kingston.
“It’s a group of concerned citizens that border along the boundary of McMaster University who are very afraid that students will throw eggs at their houses if their names are published. It’s happened before,” said Lou Ferro, the lawyer and Westdale resident who authored the ad, about PADS.
The Phoenix is set to move from its current spot in Wentworth House to the Refectory building, above Bridges Cafe, over the summer. The ad, though, claims that McMaster students are campaigning for “Another Bar On Campus,” not mentioning that the move will result in the closure of the current Phoenix. The new spot is closer to the centre of campus, further from the Westdale neighbourhood, and will hold a liquor license for fewer people.
“When you compare the old Phoenix to the new Phoenix, it’s a whole new situation, a whole new bar concept,” said Ferro. “The new Phoenix is a modern, heavy-duty, big-sized bar with a business plan that greatly overshadows the old bar. When you take the new bar, it’s a whole different entity. They may be calling it The Phoenix, but it’s not rising as a Phoenix. It’s rising as a whole new bar.”
The Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association (AWWCA), which would normally represent concerns like these of permanent residents, has not chosen to take a stance against the bar.
“I know that there are some people that, from a community point of view, are looking at it more intensely than others,” said Jay Parlar, president of the AWWCA, speaking to The Silhouette in February. “They’ve come to the Board, asking the Board for support for what they’re doing, and we can’t.”
PADS targets the Association in the ad, saying that their decision was a poor one.
“AWWCA doesn’t have any right to say anything about anything that doesn’t affect them, because it’s 200 feet from the bar that’s being affected, and most of AWWCA’s membership lives beyond the sphere on influence of this bar. It’s the Sterling and Forsythe triangle that we’re worried about,” said Ferro.
PADS appears to be a reincarnation of Westdale Against Drunk Students, which staged a rally in 2006 to campaign for the closure of TwelvEighty, then called Quarters.
“We don’t have any faith in student management of the bars,” said Ferro, explaining that students don’t have the experience needed to serve alcohol responsibly.
The Phoenix has been on campus for 43 years. In that time, the McMaster campus has always hosted two or more student bars.
“Students are students. Nobody’s arguing with their right to drink alcohol, but when a university or association puts them all in one spot and creates this mass, it’s a dangerous thing – not only for the neighbourhood, but for the students as well,” said Ferro.