Last April, the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s lacrosse team caused quite the ruckus at Fado Irish Pub, where they allegedly smoked weed in the bathroom, broke some lights, stole some bottles of booze, flashed their genitals and topped things off with a 4 percent tip on a $1,300 tab. The incident was illustrative of why many Philadelphia restaurant workers dread the UPenn parties often booked at bars around the city.
Asked by Billy Penn, servers and bartenders around the city (most of whom asked to remain anonymous) described the Penn student patrons as entitled, oblivious, disrespectful, shit tippers, douchebags… basically “the worst.”
The students, better known in the industry as “Penn Kids,” arrive in busloads, tumbling out of vehicles equipped with bent cans of cheap beer and water bottles filled with vodka. According to several Philly bars that have hosted these parties, students often show up late for their reservations, mainly because they are too busy pre-gaming. They rarely spend much money — in part because they drink so much ahead of time — and when they do, they seldom tip appropriately.
“One time they made a happy hour reservation for 6 p.m. and showed up at 10 p.m.,” says a former server at the Fox and the Hound. He also tells of a time a female student from Wharton asked him to pluck a piece of paper off of her shoe.
Living up to the party school rep
Last September, Playboy rated Penn No. 1 on its list of top party schools, stating “smarties can party too.” In justifying the ranking, the magazine cited the school’s underground frat scene, whose members apparently spend an unruly amount of money on liquor for parties; the abundance of casual sex around campus; and the fact that Philly’s booming urban bar scene helps perpetuate off-campus partying. And, of course, Spring Fling.
Penn came in at No. 4 on our “Party School Power Ranking” list, thanks to a total of 137 bars within a mile of campus and the number of drug/alcohol violations, among other things.
However, Penn isn’t the only school with a bad reputation at bars around town. A manager at the Plough and the Stars in Old City says the bar actively avoids booking parties for St. Joe’s due to several instances in the past where things got a little out of hand. For example, during a get together for the St. Joe’s women’s rugby team around two years ago, attendees tore doors off of bathroom stalls and were caught inappropriately fraternizing (read: going beyond second base) in dark corners.
What role do the schools play?
“The coaches and athletic administrators at Penn work hard to promote smart choices and good behavior by our student-athletes,” Penn’s Director of Athletic Communications Michael Mahoney told Billy Penn via e-mail. The events in question are booked by the students involved in the organizations; coaches and university administrators have no role.
“We do not coordinate off-campus, alcohol-related events for our student-athletes,” Mahoney said, “nor do we condone such behavior.”
Though the school officially has nothing to do with the parties, coaches and staff do pay attention if word of their students’ nights out makes it back to the office.
“When complaints are brought to our attention by an off-campus establishment, we treat them seriously,” says Mahoney. He declined to elaborate on the record as to what repercussions or disciplinary actions may have been taken.
The parties continue
Despite the reputation these outings have gained, bars haven’t completely cut college sports teams off from booking events … because money. Although it might be tough on service staff, a business can make a nice chunk of change for a pre-booked affair. Then there’s the potential for repeat business. Students tend to return to party spots as regular customers, in smaller groups without the school buses.
Molly, a current manager at Fado, says the Center City Irish bar continues to host college events nearly every night. While the pub has not initiated an outright ban since the Penn Lacrosse fiasco last year, the bar does now require a credit card in advance to insure the party and cover any damage that may occur.
“We tend to be a little bit more careful of our expectations of a group and their behavior,” says Molly of college events. “We don’t judge new groups based on past people’s actions; [we] give them the benefit of the doubt.” Recently, a group of Penn rugby guys who were in for a party were “great” and treated the staff well, she says.
The Plough and the Stars seems to be having a lull in crazy college stories too. A manager and bartender both say they believe it’s because they are booking more events for academic clubs as opposed to athletic teams. Stereotype or not, they have noticed a difference.
“It’s like serving children,” says a bartender as she recaps pouring endless Shirley Temples for a group of awkward students there for a weeknight outing.
At Penn, administrative officials are proactively addressing the issue, hoping to lessen the “Penn Kid” perception. Mahoney says his office is commissioning a group to “ensure the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics is proactively influencing student-athlete behavior and minimizing conduct issues going forward.”