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Middle Earth lobbied for alcohol-free Campus Center

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Middle Earth peer assistance student group played a role in the decision for a Campus Center lounge, Damien’s, to not to serve alcohol.

“There were a lot of concerns about how it would be distributed, how they would be checking IDs, thing[s] really simple like that,” said Nicole Bulanchuk, president of Middle Earth. “Administration like [vice president for Student Affairs] Michael Christakis didn’t really have the answers for us.”

Bulanchuk said Middle Earth raised concerns at President’s Council meetings last year, but also has had individual meetings with Christakis and others to talk about how serving alcohol would further bolster the school’s reputation for being a “party school.”

After the decision in November to not serve beer and wine, university officials told them they had listened to their concerns, Bulanchuk said.

“I think that there’s no one contributing factor, generally what we’d say is executive leadership at the university had conversations,” said university spokesman Jordan Carleo-Evangelist last week, “and they came to a decision that they want to set a tone that’s appropriate for this campus, and right now that doesn’t include serving alcohol.”

Students’ opinions on the university’s decision vary.

“If they [served alcohol] more money would come in for them,” said Dennis Aboagye, a freshman biology major. “But it’s gonna be crazy because a lot of people at this school like to drink.”

Justice Callis, a junior, disagrees.

“Why not? You’d have a good time, the Super Bowl’s coming up – might as well,” said Callis.
“I just think kids should know how to handle their liquor.”

After facing inspection setbacks, switching vendors, and reversing plans to serve alcohol last fall, Damien’s is expected to serve its first customers on Monday, Feb. 12

Restaurant chain WOW Cafe, which partners with Sodexo at other colleges, will run the sports-themed restaurant. Because WOW is not a Sodexo-owned restaurant like Fountain Grill, meal plan discounts at Damien’s will be 30 percent off instead of 50 percent.

UAS had said in November that the restaurant would be open by the end of January, but problems with construction and inspection held them back. Health inspectors initially raised viral suppression concerns over a door not releasing properly, and last week a fire suppression component did not work properly when tested.

Michelle Bowen, senior director of marketing and communications for UAS, described the motivation to create a sports-themed restaurant with a name like ‘Damien’s’.

“It’s all about school spirit and making sure we’re featuring comprehensive athletics across the board,” said Bowen.

Pearse said that he expects Damien’s to bring in revenue comparable to UAS’ biggest earner, Fountain Grill. Damien’s will be open from 11 a.m to 11 p.m.

One the menu for Damien’s: burgers, chicken tenders, sweet potato waffle fries, and desserts like brownies ala mode. The restaurant had originally been slated to serve beer and wine, but the university announced in November that was no longer the case.

Bowen also said that currently UAS is unsure whether UAlbany sports will be able to be streamed on the TVs at Damien’s — ESPN3, the carrier for many UAlbany games, has regulations limiting streaming in a commercial venue.

“We’re working through that with ESPN,” said Bowen. “I’m not promising that we’re going to have every game here.”

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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