Why are only some adults allowed to drink in the beer gardens?
Beer gardens are meant to be a gathering place for students new and old. However, thanks to Saskatchewan’s drinking laws, the beer gardens also leave many new students out in the cold.
As a first year student starting your adventure in the world of post-secondary education, the prospect of writing coherent essays, actually doing your readings and meeting new people can be daunting to say the least.
What better way to calm the nerves and ease your anxiety than with a cold, refreshing brew — supplied by local heroes Great Western Brewing — right in the centre of our beautiful campus?
The beer gardens are a wonderful place to meet friends both old and new, discuss important and relevant topics — like how many beers you can drink before you need to go to Economics 111 — and to get acquainted with that most helpful and loyal university companion, Great Western Pilsner.
Unfortunately, as an 18-year-old freshman, the beer and music infused oasis in the Bowl is strictly off limits. Here the bizarre drinking laws in our province are on full display, as Saskatchewanians must be 19 to consume alcohol while two provinces that flank us have drinking ages of 18.
Why the discrepancy and what difference should a few hundred kilometers of prairie make to whether an adult — that’s right, you’re adults now — can have a beer while
getting accustomed to campus life?
When I was a first year, the prospect of the beer gardens enthralled me, but I was left upset and rejected by my exclusion from the most universal of campus experiences.
Lowering the drinking age has been previously discussed in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. In 2013, Donna Harpauer, who was the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority at the time, defended the drinking age of 19.
According to CBC News, Harpauer said the Saskatchewan drinking age was consistent with the majority of other Canadian provinces, despite the fact that Saskatchewan is between two provinces that have a drinking age of 18.
One of the battling points of those against lowering the drinking age is suggesting that doing so would foster teenage alcoholism. Others point to the fact that earlier access to alcohol could only lead to more incidents of drunk driving or alcohol-related violence and abuse.
I find this to be an unfounded argument. The difference between someone who is 18 and someone who is 19 is negligible at best. If our members of parliament think an 18-year-old is not capable of making adult decisions, then maybe they should raise the legal age of majority as opposed to cuffing our young adults with a restriction on their basic powers of purchasing and commerce.
Being legally considered an adult, being allowed to vote in our democratic process and being able to fight and die for your country, but being told you aren’t responsible enough to have a beer with your colleagues to celebrate the start of a new university term simply does not make sense.
The integration of young adults into a state of self-conscious citizenship should not come with an archaic notion that they are still somehow too young to make responsible adult decisions. Labeling 18-year-olds as teenagers who engage in teenage drinking contradicts their status as adults and treats them like children.
All of our 18-year-old students are adults and it is a shame that as freshmen in an academic institution such as the University of Saskatchewan, they are still treated as though they are somehow less responsible for their actions than us obviously much more learned second, third and fourth year students.
Let’s end the prejudice towards our young adults. Let’s all have a beer.
Hear, hear: We need more than just beer
Traditionally, the beer gardens at the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Welcome Week have exclusively sold beer. However, it might be time to mix things up a little.
I personally have never been a huge fan of beer. No matter how much I drink it, I can never enjoy it. After years of choking it down in order to look “cool,” I’ve finally allowed myself to like what I like and leave the stuff that I dislike alone.
As such, I normally opt for wine or other types of spirits. However, those options are not offered at the beer gardens, which means that I simply cannot get a drink and relax with my friends unless I want to try and stomach a beer — not a particularly enjoyable experience for non-beer drinkers.
So, where’s the variety? In 2014, a loosening of British Columbia’s liquor laws allowed for the sale of spirits at certain public and sporting events. The change also relaxed the perimeters of beer gardens, allowing patrons to walk around the grounds of an event without having to stay fenced off and isolated from the rest of their family and friends that either do not want to drink or are underage.
This would be a great thing to apply in Saskatchewan, especially at the U of S where a lot of people — especially first-year students — are underage but still want to be able to have fun and meet new people in the beer gardens where they cannot enter.
Adding wines and spirits to the menu at the beer gardens will also generate more profit. The addition will entice more people into the beer gardens — especially the non-beer drinkers — which will inevitably lead to more people buying drinks.
According to Statistics Canada, beer is still the number one selling alcoholic beverage in the province, with Saskatchewanians drinking over $283 million worth of beer in 2013-14. However, spirits are the second highest selling alcoholic beverage, generating $207 million in profit in the same time span.
Additionally, there was a 21 per cent increase in the sales of coolers and ciders in Saskatchewan from 2013-14, which goes to show that spirits are increasing in popularity and are catching up to the popularity of beer — perhaps due to the sudden rise of gluten-intolerance and aversion to beer among many.
However, this growing diversity in the tastes of Saskatchewanians is not reflected in the sales of alcohol in the beer gardens, which is totally unfair to those who don’t or can’t drink beer. On top of that, it just doesn’t make sense financially.
Although beer is a very typical thing for university students to drink — considering its low cost and the low alcohol content that ensures one can drink beer after beer and not get too drunk too fast — it’s simply not the only thing that students are drinking. I can’t wait for the day that I can just soak up the sun with my friends in the beer gardens and sip on something that doesn’t make me want to throw up.
It is time to bring a little bit of variety into the mix and destroy the illusion that beer is the king of all alcoholic beverages.
Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor