The Pit Pub celebrates its 50th birthday

If proof were needed of a pub steeped in student history, look no further than the Pit Pub

It was a cool November evening in 1968, when UBC students gathered on the second floor of the Student Union Building (SUB). They were eagerly awaiting the opening of what would go on to become a campus institution – The Pit Pub.

Up until that historic night, UBC was an alcohol-free campus for students. But when the new Student Union Building opened in September 1968, students decided it was time for a pub on campus and staged a ‘Pub-In’, drinking illegally in the building to protest the lack of a licensed establishment.

Dave Zirnhelt, the AMS President at the time, disapproved of the Pub-In, but he and the noted environmentalist Dr David Suzuki, then a UBC professor, worked together to obtain a liquor license for the SUB so that there could be a legal pub in the building.

Dr Suzuki also penned an article in UBC Reports entitled “What this Campus Needs is a Pub.” He argued that such an establishment would break down barriers between various UBC populations and prevent the campus becoming a ghost town once classes were finished for the day.

On being granted a liquor license, Dr Suzuki chose the name The Pit – a name the pub would eventually live up (or down) to in the old Student Union Building because it was a dark place in the basement.  However for its first five years, The Pit didn’t even have a fixed location, floating incontinently between various rooms on the second floor of the SUB.

Finally on November 19, 1973, the Pit officially opened in its long-planned location in the southwest corner of the SUB.  At first, it was run as a private club; only dues-paying members and their guests (males 50 cents, women free) were allowed in, but eventually it was opened to all students (and others) to enjoy.

The Pit remained tucked away in the same spot for over 40 years, gathering a loyal, but inevitably transient, student following. When planning began for the new student building, The Nest, which opened in 2015, it was time for The Pit to up roots and move locations.

Today Pit Nights, which happen every Wednesday, are still a UBC tradition, providing a new generation of students the opportunity to let loose from studies mid-week. And what of the young zoology professor who helped get the Pit started?

Fifty years later David Suzuki still believes it was the right choice, “Congratulations to the students of UBC. 50 years of the PIT PUB and the sky hasn’t fallen.” Let’s hope the Pit Pub continues its legacy in this vein for at least another 50!

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