Farewell to our favorite campus bartender

by Joe Stewart

Photo courtesyMatt Salwasser, artwork courtesy of Omar Rodriguez
Photo courtesyMatt Salwasser, artwork courtesy of Omar Rodriguez

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. We know it as Louie’s. Those before us knew it as Monty’s; before them, Henry’s.
Students have socialized and wound down at the pub for more than three decades. “Louie’s is the only place near campus where you’ll never find anyone under 21 drinking. That takes a lot of stress out of the air,” graphic design student Joey Clark said. But at the end of spring semester, that’s all gone.

Moving forward with plans to erect an overpriced, unnecessary new student union, the Aztec Center is scheduled for demolition during summer break. Our current student body will have limited resources for what Associated Students claims will only be two years.

Once this building is gone, so is Louie’s Suds & Sun Pub. And A.S. has no plans to bring it back. A.S.’s goal is a Chili’s-style pub and grill, where the cost of beer will be inflated to cover additional overhead. So long, $5 pitchers. So long, beer patio.
Why do I care about what’s built in (projected) 2013? I’ll be long gone. My concern is the next (projected) two years, when I’ll be paying $56 per semester in Student Body Center fees for a student union that doesn’t exist. Two (projected) years I’ll have to drive elsewhere to drink. That seems responsible.

“But Joe, can’t they relocate the pub during construction? Look at all that wasted space in West Commons, East Commons, throughout campus. Why can’t we keep our pub?”

That’s a great question, one I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of. Dan Cornthwaite, executive director of A.S., offered some insight in an interview with three main points:
A.S. is responsible for telling Aztec Shops what the student body wants in the student union, and, because there will be no student union for the next (projected) two years, A.S. has no say. Clever.

If Louie Holton wants to relocate on campus, he would have to find a space, receive approval from Aztec Shops, then submit the proposal to A.S.
Wait, I thought A.S. had no say?

“Frankly, because they’re in the student union, I’m intimately familiar with the pub’s sales, and they haven’t been good.”

Thank you, Mr. Cornthwaite. I now have a clearer understanding of why I won’t have a pub to ease my scholarly woes for the remainder of my time at SDSU.
Let’s take a moment to consider poor sales. In 2000, Holton received a notice from A.S. stating the pub was an asset to the university, with an overall rating of 31 out of 40.

Then, Holton received a memo stating, beginning spring 2001, he must open at noon instead of 10 a.m. In October 2001, SDSU Dining Services received no fewer than 20 complaints that the pub needed to open earlier. The complaints fell on deaf ears.

Holton received another memo the same year documenting the fact he was forced to change the name of the pub from Monty’s because the campus deemed it offensive. He was offered no financial assistance implementing the change, and the shorthand story that circulated campus was “Monty’s is gone.”

Because of the costs of advertising in The Daily Aztec, he ran an ad in Kiss My Aztec  (The Koala of its time), with approval from Aztec Shops, to let students know the pub was still around, just under a new name. However, because of the offensive nature of the paper, not the ad, Holton was forced to make a public apology or face non-renewal of his lease.
But sure, poor sales are Holton’s fault. And what of relocation? Holton did sit down with R.D. Williams of Aztec Shops to discuss it. Boby Mangan, instructional support technician with the Department of Biology and close friend of Holton, sat in on the meeting. Holton and Mangan suggested the concession area of the Open Air Theatre, Scripps Cottage and East

Commons as viable locations for the pub. Williams did not agree.

It was even brought up that Holton had portable bars during the original bar construction. He was told he could not do the same. With enough prodding, Williams finally leveled by saying, “We don’t have a future with you in mind.”

So Holton, unfortunately corporate interests trump student interests. Cornthwaite concluded our interview by saying, “We’re not mean-spirited people or people oblivious to the fact this guy has history with us. It’s his primary livelihood, he employs students and a lot of people here enjoy the tradition of going to Louie’s and having a beer. It’s just not in our purview to provide food and beverage. That’s Aztec Shops.”

But we all know that if A.S. wanted you, you’d stay. So let me say that you’ve been an integral part of many great memories, and you’re more than just a bartender, you’re a friend. You will be missed. It’s a shame that, to the degree A.S. and Aztec Shops have screwed us, they can’t even provide us a place to ease the pain.

—Joe Stewart is a journalism senior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.