Willy's Pub, 1975 - 1995


Willy's Pub was conceived by a student committee in early 1975 in response to the death of several Rice students in drunk driving accidents during that year. Construction funding was provided by the Campus Store. On April 11, Rice President Norman Hackerman drew the first pitcher of beer, calling it a "Red letter day for the university;" 1,700 showed up on opening day.

Reaction to the Pub's interior design was mixed. One patron called it "marvelous." A group of architecture students (including William Cannady, who would go on to design the Hanszen commons), though, dubbed it "reactionary ... a sort of middle class attempt at the River Oaks Country Club."

In the early years, Willy's was the second largest consumer of beer in Harris County, behind only the AstroDome. Through the mid 1980s, the Pub ran a surplus, donating money to other campus organizations. When the drinking age was raised to 21 in 1986, patronage fell and red ink began to pile up. By the spring of 1994, Willy's was in danger of closing down. President Gillis waived the fees the Pub had to pay for maintenance for 1993-94 and reduced them for the next year.

The last major fire on campus was in the summer of 1975. The Hanszen commons, left unlocked and piled high with furniture from a remodeling of Wiess, were gutted by a blaze of unknown origin. The remainders of the building were demolished in the fall to make way for the present commons. Residents of Hanszen ate in the Grand Hall of the RMC instead for the 1975-76 school year.


This item appeared in the News section of the April 21, 1995 issue.


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