Is it Time for a Pub on Parnassus?

Graduate Division

UCSF students are currently in the thick of qualifying exam season, a time both of stress and of celebration when it is all over.  Looking back at when I took my exam at Parnassus, it would have been nice to have a place to grab a quick beer on campus with friends afterward.  

I’ve heard many students say they would like to take an hour or two to relax or celebrate, but don’t have the time to walk down to Ninth and Irving.  Faculty and staff share similar sentiments. 

“As a postdoc, I’d like a closer location to drown my sorrows,” says Matt Cook.    

The pub is a fixture on many university campuses, including our own Mission Bay, which has The Pub and Terzetto, a coffee shop that serves a small selection of draft beers. 

My involvement in student organizations brings me to Mission Bay regularly, and more often than not I find myself at Terzetto discussing business over a beer.  Whenever I see UCSF folks grabbing a beer and relaxing during those precious hours outside of lab, I wonder why we don’t have anything like The Pub or Terzetto on Parnassus campus. Surely we have enough students, faculty and staff to warrant a watering hole – and a good location for a pub (or coffee shop that serves beer) on Parnassus. 

For an entire year I’ve had my eye on the empty Nursing Café (known by most as the Nurseteria), which will soon be occupied by San Francisco Soup Company.  Why not a pub?

The answer is not as simple as one might think.  I spoke to Jennifer Dowd, Vendor Services Manager at UCSF, who provided some context. In the past there have been at least two places that served alcohol on Parnassus—the Faculty Club and, interestingly, Palio Caffé. 

I was surprised to learn about the latter, a buzzing lunch spot in Millberry Union that serves sandwiches and other quick items.  According to Dowd, Palio tried serving beer and wine and keeping their café open beyond the normal lunch hours.  It was not successful, however, and they eventually removed alcohol from the menu.    

This apparent lack of demand is one reason why a pub has not opened on Parnassus.  While there are students aplenty, they just don’t stay on campus after hours.  Because Mission Bay has housing, people stop at Terzetto after a day in lab before heading to their apartments in the very same complex.  Moreover, Portrero Hill, where the bars closest to Mission Bay are located, is somewhat far from campus, especially compared to the proximity of Inner Sunset bars to the Parnassus campus.  Says Tetrad third-year Bryne Ulmschneider, “It’d be great to have a pub on campus, but it’s pretty easy to just head down to Inner Sunset to grab a drink too.” 

Another reason why a pub has not appeared on Parnassus is the lack of a feasible location.  While places like the Nurseteria may have been up for grabs momentarily, liquor laws require that a pub be situated in a fully enclosed space, including seating. The seating area of the Nurseteria is open to the rest of the building, so that space is ruled out.  And we already know what happened with Palio Caffe, the only feasible place on Parnassus campus with contained seating. 

With these two factors—relative demand and feasible space—absent, is it likely we will ever get a pub on Parnassus?  Our only hope may rest with the Long-Range Development Plan, which includes plans to convert the Millberry Union towers back to housing, their original function. 

Based on the Mission Bay example, we might see increased demand for a pub as more people stay on campus after hours.  Regarding a place to put a pub, the Campus Planning office was not responsive to my inquiries on this, but in perusing the online Long Range Development Plan, I saw no explicit plan for more retail space, although the wording of the plan as an “Initial Study” might imply that there is room for suggestions. 

I know many thirsty students and staff on Parnassus who would be willing to suggest a pub going forward, for reasons beyond just having a place to grab a drink.  

“I think having a pub at Parnassus would help a lot of people get in touch with their communities, because otherwise everyone just goes home after work,” says Junior Specialist Dinara Azimova. 

Indeed, that is a big reason why a pub is so appealing—as a research campus, UCSF Parnassus needs a place for people to gather freely and communicate beyond the lab or the classroom, at any moment throughout the day, a place that promotes the flow of ideas.