Ben Hayward August 29th
2019

A university has taken the decision to close its Students’ Union bar just two weeks before Freshers’ Week after demand for alcohol from students has plummeted. 

The University of Portsmouth decided to close ‘The Waterhole’ after alcohol sales fell by 20% year on year for the last four years, reports The Independent. 

The move has come after a report - that was shared exclusively with The Independent - revealed that the demand for alcohol-free university events has risen substantially with more than one in five students now describing themselves as ‘teetotal’.

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But, far from sitting empty, The Waterhole will instead be converted into a social space featuring street food, a coffee shop, microwaves and ‘comfy furniture’.

And Portsmouth isn’t the only uni to be making moves away from alcohol focused sales - Abertay University, in Dundee, has also swapped out its bar for a cafe as student demands have evolved. 

Graham Galbraith, vice chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, said: “We recognise that student tastes have changed in recent years and most students who want to drink alcohol would prefer to do so at other city venues.

“Only a minority of students have been using The Waterhole bar and we’re aware that many avoid it. People were simply not using it enough and the bar has become financially unsustainable.

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“In response, we believe redesigning and refurbishing that area, offering street food, coffee, microwaves and comfy furniture will help open it up for all to enjoy and help them feel part of a bigger student community.”

Helena Schofield, the students’ union (SU) president, said: “Myself and the sabbatical officer team are sad to see the bar go but we understand that it’s not financially viable to keep the bar open.

“We’re excited to hear student ideas on what the new space should bring to the experience of students here in Portsmouth.”

The move ism part of a much wider trend. A 2018 survey from the National Union of Students (NUS) revealed that students are increasingly turning their backs on boozy nights out.

Almost a quarter of students think universities should feature more social events that don’t involve drinking, and a number of institutions have responded by increasing the number of alcohol-free events they run with some even introducing alcohol-free halls.

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According to The Independent, the University of St Andrews, which has offered alcohol-free accommodation since 2015, said the residence was so popular last year it couldn’t keep up with the demand for places. 

Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President (Welfare), said: "Students' Unions cater to the needs and demands of their students. It’s only right, therefore, that SUs adapt the services that they offer to the needs of their membership.

"NUS research has shown a changing demographic in how students interact with alcohol with one in five students now declaring as teetotal.

"Our NUS Alcohol Impact Scheme encourages responsible drinking on campus, whilst changing attitudes towards alcohol to build healthier, safer student communities.”

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