I wrote that other day that Chesterton’s at the University of Mary embodies their Benedictine value of “moderation,” and want to write a bit more about that today and about my experience there. As much a community center as a pub, here’s how Chesterton’s describes itself:

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Chesterton’s is the community center and “campus pub” located at The Cloisters, the University of Mary’s upperclassmen apartment complex. It’s an incredible place to study and socialize, watch television, play pool and old-time video games, or just enjoy the view. Chesterton’s also hosts a weekly community night for all members. Chesterton’s features complimentary coffee and popcorn, snacks and soda, Wi-Fi, and printing. Members have 24/7 access to the main level of the community center.

Chesterton’s is proudly named for G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the English writer, literary critic, poet, and Catholic apologist.  The design of Chesterton’s was inspired by The Eagle and the Childpub in Oxford, where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the rest of The Inklings used to gather for good cheer and conversation. …

Three nights a week, Chesterton’s operates as our “campus pub,” offering concessions and beverages. Chesterton’s members who are of legal drinking age and who have completed the University of Mary alcohol training seminar are admitted to the community center to enjoy a limited food and beverage menu, as well as complimentary beer or wine.

The Tolkien-themed beer on tap, “Southfarthing Stout” and “Green Dragon Ale,” are locally brewed for Chesterton’s at Buffalo Commons in Mandan, ND.

The University of Mary is committed to educating students on the responsible and moral use of alcohol. Student members participate in thorough training which includes cultural, legal, and heath perspectives. No alcohol is for sale. Rather, as a benefit of membership, members are provided with up to two glasses of beer or two glasses of wine per evening without charge. Consumption is tracked by Mcard, and no one is allowed more than two glasses of beer or wine per night. No liquor is available, and those who bring alcohol of any kind into Chesterton’s have their membership revoked.

It was pointed out that the University of Mary is a “dry” campus, and so to some there might seem to be a contradiction in Mary playing host to a pub. But seen as a community center that happens to have a pub, and a pub that happens to be open only a few days a week, and a pub that when it happens to be open is only open for members, and as a public that’s occasionally open for members only providing two mugs of beer or glasses of wine… Well, suddenly you’ve got a physical environment for drinking in the context of others, and a whole milieu designed to foster moderation that points toward richer relationships and experiences suggesting that the natural human desire to pursue more can be satisfied with good beer and wine, but not only through more wine and beer.

Chesterton’s pub only ended up being open for one of my nights at University of Mary, but that experience was a refreshing one. Knowing, heading in, that I could only order two drinks did make me focus and savor every sip. I found myself tasting that Southfarthing Stout and that Green Dragon Ale.

I’m sure there are times when students or professors or whomever sort of rue that two drink limit (and I wonder whether the complimentary sodas, iced teas, etc. help offset that), but I imagine there are plenty of other times when someone wakes up the next day and is grateful not to be hungover after ending up just thoughtlessly ordering one after another. And that’s one aspect of the virtue of moderation that’s not spoken about often enough in a free market, personal-liberty-trumps-all-else culture—that something like moderation can be encouraged systemically “from above” through a pub/club like Chesterton’s that adds a bit of variety and distinctiveness to a culture that says it values pluralism but rarely seems to tolerate substantial difference.

What I’m trying to say is this: Chesterton’s was great, and I’d welcome that club/pub approach in other places.