Tufts recently purchased 325–331 Boston Avenue, a property on the corner of Boston Avenue and Winthrop Street in Medford that formerly housed Hillside Hardware. We believe that the property should become an on-campus pub to cultivate a safer, more cohesive community.
The property, which was sold in December for $1.7 million, “is in poor shape and will require significant renovations in order for it to be usable,” according to Robert Chihade, the director of real estate at Tufts. Tufts does not currently have a timeline for the renovations nor a specific vision for the purchased space. In an email to the Daily, Chihade wrote, “We are evaluating options for the building’s future use.”
Unfortunately, the plot of land is simply too small to address Tufts’ housing crisis. The property rests in a commercial zoning area, and therefore we hope that this undesignated space will be transformed into an on-campus student pub.
Tufts already has plans to develop commercial properties on Boston Avenue with the construction of a new residence hall on Boston Avenue slated to open in 2025. The new dorm will be a prime example of mixed-use development with retail space on the ground floor under the dorms. With this, as well as the increased traffic the area has gotten since the opening of the Medford/Tufts Green Line Extension, further retail space will complement the area — and make it a bit less dry.
On-campus bars are not a foreign concept in the Boston area. Harvard has the Cambridge Queen's Head, a student-run pub where many extracurricular events are hosted.
Across the Charles, Fuller's BU Pub at Boston University offers a dining menu and drinks. It also accepts the BU equivalent of JumboCash.
There was a time when Tufts students enjoyed the same perks as Harvard and BU students. The MacPhie Pub, which has since been transformed into the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center, was once home to pints, concerts and comedy shows alike. Though it largely placed a spotlight on Tufts student performers, it featured well-known artists like alumna Tracy Chapman and the band Phish for students to enjoy. In the past, Hotung Café has also served alcohol.
It should be noted that MacPhie and Hotung thrived when the drinking age was lower than it is today. In 1971, Massachusetts lowered the drinking age to 18 to align with the new voting age, but by 1984 it was raised back to 21 to access federal highway funds. According to Patti Klos, the director of dining and business services, “Everything changed when the drinking age went up.” In 1994, the beloved MacPhie Pub went out of operation.
However, the current drinking age is not a worthy reason to disregard the great value that an on-campus bar would add to Tufts.
The Medford campus has a notable of-age population, including many undergraduate juniors, seniors and graduate students — at least half of students at the university are estimated to be of age. As noted in a 2014 editorial, these students don’t enjoy the same sense of community that underclassmen find in dorms, even with irregular events organized such as Senior Bar Nights hosted at various bars in downtown Boston.
An on-campus pub would also provide an alternative to bars further from campus and a safer one with the recent uptick in roofying across the greater Boston area. The private Facebook group “Booze in Boston,” which was launched in the spring of 2022, has compiled a list of bars and clubs where roofying incidents have been reported, including many frequented by Tufts students. Thus, a new on-campus pub could provide a space for harm reduction — working to both stamp out drink spiking and respond appropriately when it does occur in this supervised setting.
An on-campus bar could also help cultivate responsible drinking habits among Tufts students, shifting focus away from binge drinking by serving food in addition to drinks and imposing a drink limit — as Hotung has in the past.
Additionally, an on-campus pub would provide student employment opportunities. When MacPhie Pub was in operation, most of the workers and bartenders were Tufts students. The reopening of an on-campus pub could provide new employment for Tufts students, especially given that working in bars is often more lucrative than other service industry positions.
As the campus recovers from the pandemic and its isolating aftereffects, Tufts needs designated spaces for students to socialize and establish camaraderie now more than ever, particularly for upperclassmen removed from campus life. A pub would provide the venue to improve Tufts’ social life, creating a lighthearted environment for meeting new people and gathering with friends.
While there certainly is merit to the argument that cultivating campus culture should not be centered around alcohol, we envision that the pub could serve as a more general hub of student life and space for events. The venue could have alcohol-free nights and regularly serve ‘mocktails’ and other nonalcoholic beverages for students who do not wish to consume alcohol.
It can also be a place to establish connections with Tufts faculty. As occurs at other schools, during the day professors and students could hold events and meetings over a meal or a cocktail.
The pub could also serve as a central campus location for Tufts bands, comedy shows, trivia nights, film series, sports watch parties and other student performances which may have struggled to regain an audience post-lockdown.
So long as students use the proposed bar responsibly, a Tufts pub could transform campus life for the best. Since the pandemic, Tufts students have increasingly realized a need for campus connection with peers. With the purchase of new real estate on Boston Avenue, Tufts should make the move to prioritize socialization and open a space where community can flourish.