Ultra Vires


The Short-Lived Return of Call to the Bar

Call to the Bar has been paused in light of COVID-19 concerns and booking difficulties

After a year and a half of being virtual, the Students’ Law Society (SLS) announced the return of Call to the Bar (CTTB)—a weekly event hosted on Thursdays where law students flock to a bar to celebrate getting through another week of law school. 

Approximately 300 students headed to Fox on John on Friday, October 1. The SLS  rescheduled the event due to an oversight in originally planning the event for September 30, otherwise known as Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Law students at the first Call to the Bar event of the year on October 1, 2021. Credit: Thomas Alexander

Students were advised to arrive before 9 p.m. to ensure entry into the event. Rebecca Xie (3L) who arrived before 9 p.m. noted that it was easy to enter the venue as very few people were in attendance at that time. 

Due to capacity limitations and lack of planning for a staggered entry, a sudden flux of students arrived at the event shortly after 9 p.m., causing many to be frustrated by long lines and wait times. Many students, including Xie’s friends, opted to leave the line and go to a different bar. Xie expressed her disappointment with the event.

“I haven’t been to any CTTB in the past years. I only came this time due to [the COVID-19 pandemic] increasing my desire to meet new people. So I was disappointed when that wasn’t really possible because it was too loud and crowded to properly talk to people,” said Xie.

Tiffany Zhan (1L) echoed Xie’s sentiments. As a 1L, she hoped to meet other students at CTTB. However, she expressed that the event was not optimal for socializing because of its “club-esque” venue, the music’s high volume, and general crowdedness. 

SLS Vice-President Social, Thryn Irwin (3L) emphasized the difficulties of planning a bar night event during an ongoing pandemic. She explained that “finding a venue that could host us was very challenging as bars were refusing to take reservations, wouldn’t respond, had too small of a capacity, or required very large deposits and/or minimum spending amounts to reserve space.”

She elaborated that before the pandemic, CTTB did not require extensive planning nor using student fees for large deposits to reserve spaces. Therefore, annual student funds in the SLS budget were not allocated for these purposes. Due to these difficulties, the SLS had a sub-committee dedicated to planning CTTB and contacted dozens of venues in hopes of making the event possible.

The return of CTTB was short-lived, however. The SLS announced on October 10 that future CTTBs will be paused in light of a student who was at Fox on John on October 1 and tested positive for COVID-19 a week following the event.

Xie, who was relieved after testing negative following her attendance at CTTB, was disappointed to find “some people seemingly prioritizing future social events over people’s health and safety.” 

In a statement to Ultra Vires, Irwin confirmed that “[t]he SLS has paused future Call to the Bar events.” The rationale for the decision was “the unpredictability and stringency of University policies and requirements which have continued to change over the course of the semester, often on a week-to-week basis.” She further noted it became difficult to adhere to policies including: obtaining “a venue that is secured and private, [filling out forms] at least two weeks in advance, and [providing] confirmation of insurance for each event.” In addition, because of the amount of work required to ensure that event-specific COVID protocols are followed, the SLS decided to focus on organizing bigger in-person events rather than weekly CTTBs. 

Some students have noted that weekly Thursday night bar events are still being held. The SLS emphasized that “these are not affiliated with nor endorsed by the Students’ Law Society, and the Social and Finance Committee is not involved with their planning. The SLS has previously asked or suggested that students interested in organizing Thursday night bar events refrain from using the name “Call to the Bar” to avoid confusing students about whether the event is planned by the SLS.”

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