The AMS Pub Services (TAPS) through the ages
With Student Appreciation Week upon us, this week’s blogs will center on our well-established traditions of student leadership. All of the AMS services are student owned and student run: the people you work with, you work for and who you report to are all students–they’re your housemates, classmates, friends and co-workers. That’s all it is and there’s a history of people, like you, working to make Queen’s what it is today. It’s a student culture and a culture of responsibility. This is what makes Queen’s truly unique–the services you use everyday were created out of a need identified by students before you. Over the next few days stay tuned to learn about the history of the AMS services, created by students, for students, starting with The AMS Pub Services (TAPS): an amalgamation of the Queen’s Pub and the Underground.
The first pub owned and operated by the Alma Mater Society was established in October, 1969. It was known simply as “The Queen’s Pub” and was located on the second floor of the Student Union Building (now the John Deutsch University Centre or JDUC). The pub was actually situated in two rooms – the House of Commons and the House of Lords – which have since been renamed the McLaughlin Room and the Robert Sutherland Room. The pub was maintained in this location until 1975 when it was briefly moved to Wallace Hall during the 1970s expansion and renovation of the Student Union Building that created the current JDUC.
An essential component of this expansion was the creation of a large pub located beneath the JDUC across from the Sidewalk Café. In the excitement and anticipation that preceded the opening of the first designed AMS pub space, the AMS Assembly – the AMS governing body – established a Pub Name Selection Committee that ran a campus-wide “Name the Pub Contest”. This contest generated a list of ten names for the pub that included The Krumpled Kilt, Stagger Inn, The Cellar, The Oil Thigh and The Shiny Stein, however after a lively debate, the Assembly settled on the name “The Underground” in deference to the pub’s location.
The Underground opened its doors in 1976 with a capacity of 400 without live entertainment and 338 with it. The original furniture in the pub consisted of round, stainless steel tables and bright orange chairs. Bottled beer was sold for $0.65, a 13 oz. draught was $0.50 and any straight liquor drink was $0.80. Offering low prices, friendly student service and top bands on weekends, The Underground soon established itself as the largest and most popular gathering place on the Queen’s campus.
In 1979, the AMS Assembly voted to change the name of the pub to “Alfie’s Pub”. The name change reflected a desire to connect the pub with the rich traditions and alumni spirit that have long defined Queen’s University. The name was selected to honor the memory of Alfie Pierce (1874-1951) who devoted much of his life to the University, its students and particularly its athletic teams. Mr. Pierce was the son of a slave from the United States who had escaped to Canada where he operated a livery business. As he grew up Mr. Pierce was a talented athlete who developed a lifelong affinity for sports. He was a fixture at Queen’s football games and for generations his enthusiastic cheerleading, singular loyalty and quiet dignity was thought to have personified the Queen’s spirit.
Despite strong competition from downtown bars and two other campus pubs – Clark Hall and the AMS Quiet Pub (now the Queen’s Pub) – Alfie’s remained the bar of choice for most students and was a very profitable establishment during its heydays during the 1980s. For decades, Thursday night at Alfie’s was extraordinarily popular and generated enormous overflow crowds with long line-ups. For a period of time the pub was also a highly popular spot on Friday afternoons and for a number of years, on Friday and Saturday nights, the pub was viewed as largely a bar for 1st and 2nd year students.
Attendance at Alfie’s began to wane somewhat in the 1990s in large part because Ontario increased the legal drinking age from 18 to 19, although Thursdays remained immensely popular. This decrease in popularity was exacerbated by the elimination of Grade 13 in Ontario in the early 2000s which brought about a significant reduction in the number of undergraduate students of legal drinking age. Partly in response to this decline in attendance, in the fall of 2003, Alfie’s Head Manager Dan Wiley and AMS Services Director Adam Perry undertook a promotion whereby they sought to break the Guinness Book World Record for the longest consecutive bar shift. They were successful, staying in Alfie’s for 16 consecutive days while simultaneously raising close to $10,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation for HIV and AIDS.
Over the years, Alfie’s has undergone several makeovers including a major $300,000 renovation in 2001 and a substantial furnishings and décor upgrade in 2004. In 2004-05, Alfie’s was amalgamated with the Queen’s Pub under a new management structure known as The AMS Pub Services or TAPS, before being re-branded in 2013 as the Underground. The establishment will begin its 40th year of operations as an integral and historic part of Queen’s University’s social life in September 2015.