A few weeks ago, I caught up with some friends at my preferred drinking establishment near Main Campus – somebody’s house. We had traveled to South Dakota together through Temple’s Service Immersion Program and I was happy to be spending time with them.
As the night drew on, the conversation turned to campus bars, places I try to avoid at all costs. My friend Jordan – who did not feel comfortable using his last name in this piece – mentioned that on Wednesdays, the Draught Horse will now charge $5 to all patrons who don’t possess a valid student ID.
Jordan, a junior international business major, said this had to do with a recurring event at the Draught Horse, which is located at Cecil B. Moore Avenue and 15th Street. The event is colloquially known as “White Girl Wednesday.”
Perhaps it was the fact that I happened not to be drinking that evening and had a clear head, but when I heard this anecdote, I could not possibly believe it was true – the implications behind it make it almost impossible to believe. I decided I needed to verify that this was an actual policy.
The next week, I went back to the Draught Horse and asked the first bartender I saw about the matter.
The bartender, 2014 Temple alumna Chelsea Thompson, said there is a DJ that comes on Wednesday nights and that the cover was “to ensure and keep the college atmosphere,” which appears to be a thinly veiled excuse to keep non-students out.
Logic dictates that the reason for the cover couldn’t actually be to pay for the DJ, since the goal is to keep the clientele exclusively college students – the same students who aren’t being charged for entry.
Employees at other bars around Main Campus, including Pub Webb, Masters Bar and Restaurant and Maxi’s, said their establishments do not have similar policies.
When I went to Pub Webb to ask people about the matter, the responses I got were revealing.
“[‘White Girl Wednesday’] is misleading. As a black woman, I wouldn’t feel welcome there in the first place,” said Clarissa Jordan, a two-year resident of North Philadelphia.
Though the Draught Horse does not officially sanction the “White Girl Wednesday” name, it is known campus-wide as such, by those who frequent the bar and those who do not. And although the establishment calls the event “Wild Wednesday,” a pinnie displaying the insignia “WGW” on display at the bar seems to imply something else.
“[The policy] causes divisions between the races, and is inherently discriminatory,” Clarissa Jordan said. “If you’re a resident in the neighborhood, you should have every right to go to any establishment without feeling discriminated [against].”
The policy seems to be intended to keep North Philadelphia residents and students separate.
As a private establishment, the Draught Horse technically has every right to instill whatever policies it wishes. But consider the implications of such a policy on a neighborhood already rife with racist and classist tensions.
Private organizations are integral parts in helping Main Campus bridge the divide that is glaringly apparent between the students of Temple and the residents of North Philadelphia. Allowing a night to be colloquially dedicated to “white girls” and charging a cover for those who are less financially well-off – i.e., not students – does nothing but make the divide more tangible.
“I absolutely thought that it was to keep out residents,” said Jordan, my business major friend. “I thought he asked for my ID [because] I’m black and he thought I was a ‘local,’ but I kind of just tried to shrug it off.”
It seems this policy has a psychological impact on both students and residents.
This policy calls to mind the recent push to pass laws requiring State IDs to be presented at voting booths – the ostensible reason being to make voting more secure. It doesn’t take an intrepid sleuth to realize that the laws are surreptitious plans to keep the poor and minorities from voting.
The ability to afford a college degree is a de facto sign of financial privilege. Students should use this privilege not to avoid cover charges, but to protest the existence of such fundamentally divisive policies.
Only when we take a firm and substantial stand and say that racism and classism are not welcome in our atmosphere can we begin to make real and positive change.
Benjamin D’Annibale can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @pianobell