History on the Hill: The MacPhie Pub

Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is pictured on Oct. 26, 2017. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The MacPhie Pub, whose former home has since been combined with the Dewick building to form the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center, was once a lively on-campus spot for students to hang out with friends, watch live entertainment and drink alcohol legally.

In the 1970s, many states, including Massachusetts, lowered the legal drinking age to 18. Realizing that most Tufts students were above that age, Tufts decided to establish the pub, hosted in part of Dewick-MacPhie. While the pub was run by Tufts Dining, according to Procurement Manager for Tufts Dining John Fisher, the majority of the workers and bartenders were Tufts students.

Fisher recalled the pub as a popular spot among Tufts students, featuring all kinds of performances.

Tufts Dining was running the pub in conjunction with the Programming Board, which would arrange for musical performances and comedy acts,” Fisher said.

In fact, the MacPhie Pub hosted several well-known musical acts. According to Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos and band concert archives, some of the acts included Tufts alumna Tracy Chapman, Phish, Village People, The Band and Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs.

Tracy Chapman used to play in the room for $5 and a free meal,” Fisher said.

The venue also hosted high-profile comedy acts.

“There was also an HBO campus comedy show hosted by [former Saturday Night Live comedian] Joe Piscopo,” Fisher said. “The Hollywood production team came in and completely renovated and dressed up the whole room.”

However, Fisher noted that local acts provided the majority of the entertainment at the pub.

“By and large, most of the acts were Tufts oriented, with Tufts bands, comedy shows and trivia nights,” Fisher said.

Other uses of the pub included a film series, sports watch parties and other student performances.

Regarding checking students’ ages, Fisher explained that the bartenders were very thorough in making sure all students were drinking legally.

“Massachusetts has very strict laws about checking identification, so we checked at the entry and used a wristband system,” Fisher said. “When the drinking age went up [to 20], we became even more strict.”

The termination of MacPhie Pub can be attributed to two main factors, according to Fisher. One of them was the raising of the drinking age from 18 to 20 in 1979 and from 20 to 21 in 1985. The second increase in the drinking age prevented over half of undergraduate students from drinking legally.

“Everything changed when the drinking age went up,” Klos said.

As a result, there were fewer students who could take advantage of the on-campus pub. While some students continued to enjoy the live performances and events hosted at the pub, Klos noted that a general decline in interest for an on-campus pub led to the phasing out of MacPhie.

“It was not that students weren’t interested in having a good time or relaxing with an adult beverage, but there are so many more places to go,” Klos said. “With the T Station in Davis Square and services like Uber now, there is so much more available [off campus].”

Tufts began to phase out the pub in the early 1990s and officially combined the Dewick and MacPhie buildings.

“That’s when we got away from [Dewick and MacPhie] looking like two separate buildings, by getting rid of the door separating the two,” Klos said.

By 1994, the MacPhie Pub was no more, according to a Nov. 30, 1994 Daily article.

Around this time, Tufts considered serving alcohol at the newly created Hotung Cafe, Klos said. However, she explained that the rise in the drinking age and decline in general interest deterred the university from making this addition to the cafe.

There has recently been renewed student interest to bring a pub back to campus in some form. According to an April 6, 2016 Daily article, a group of senators brought forth the issue and began to create a report gauging student interest and feasibility. While no location had been officially proposed, the senators mentioned Brown and Brew Coffee House as “the most economically viable location,” while also keeping an eye on Hotung and Dewick-MacPhie.

While Klos is not opposed to the idea of bringing back a place to serve alcohol on campus, she wants to ensure that it would actually appeal to students and that it would be implemented for the right reasons.

“We would need to define the real objective, as a place to have a cheap beer does not seem like it’s in the university’s best interests,” Klos said. “But if you want to be adults, have an experience and foster communities, that can be done, and there is a lot of potential there.”