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Drinks at the Roost: UTSA’s Campus Bar

December 15, 2008
Photograph of UTSA President James Wagener and others at the Roadrunner Roost bar, 1986. Office of University Communications Photographs, 1972-2001, UA 16.01.01, Archives and Special Collections, UTSA Library.

In the September 16, 2008 issue of UTSA’s independent student newspaper, the Paisano, student Arianne Evans used pictures from the University Communications Photographs to illustrate a piece called “The Alcohol Buzz: No Plans for a University Bar, Yet.” The story discussed the demise of UTSA’s first and only bar, which was located in the University Center’s Roadrunner Roost, and featured interviews with administrators, students, and an alumnus who reminisced about the bar.

The University Center is UTSA’s student union, with the present-day Roost serving as a place to shoot pool, listen to music, play video games, and generally hang out. The Roost has not served alcohol since the 1980s, and the bar’s drying up is a mystery.

Recently, the records of the University Center, 1978-2001, were inventoried and made available online in TARO (Texas Archival Resources Online). While encoding the records ā€“ which chiefly focus on various aspects of construction and renovation of the student union ā€“ I came across a single folder entitled, “Roadrunner Roost Renovation Proposal.” I had to check it out.

Flyer, “Take A Break: Wake Up at the New Roost,” undated. University Center Records, 1978-2001, UA 19.01, Archives & Special Collections, UTSA Library.

The folder contains correspondence, memoranda, floor plans, flyers, ephemera, and meeting minutes of the Roost Renovation Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Jane Duckworth Findling, Director of Student Affairs. The committee was established to discuss how to “increase use and appeal of the Roadrunner Roost.” Part of the Renovation Committee’s charge was to find a way to downplay the Roost’s offering of alcohol, and eventually came up with the idea of marketing the Roost as more of a coffeehouse. In her recommendation to Dean Dora Hauser to establish the committee in October 1988, Findling indicates that Texas’ raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1986 resulted in much of the UTSA student population’s being excluded from drinking on campus — something that might have scared off most undergrads from visiting the Roost.
In speaking with alumnus Victor Rodriguez, the chair of musical events for the University Center Program Council (now known as the Campus Activities Board), the Paisano learned that live music was a regular feature on Thursday nights, often packing the house. Clearly, attracting students to the Roost wasn’t always a problem.

But what about the alcohol?

Flyer for Live Music at the Roost, October 1988. University Center Records, 1978-2001, UA 19.01, Archives & Special Collections, UTSA Library.

Minutes from a January 1990 meeting of the Renovation Committee indicate that plans were still in place to keep the bar on campus; committee members were discussing the most appropriate time of day to open the bar. The rest of the materials in the folder, however, don’t extend beyond 1990. Alas, the answer to the question of “Why can’t I get a drink at UTSA anymore?” may well be hiding in the University Archives, but has yet to be uncovered.

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