In defense of Dog House: A sober ceremony


Graduation is a day of celebration, distinction and honor – a day you will probably remember for the rest of your life. That is, unless you’re completely hammered.

For the past few years, Dog House Grill has run a special on the morning of graduation in which it opens early at 6 a.m. and offers drink specials, such as bottomless mimosas. This year, however, at the request of Paul Oliaro, vice president of student affairs at Fresno State, Dog House will no longer be holding this “tradition.”

In a letter from Oliaro written to Matt Billingsley, the manager of Dog House, he explains his “concern about the number of students who have recently attended our ceremonies who were intoxicated,” stating that it is intended to be “a safe and dignified event for the students and parents who will be celebrating this moment.”

Since news of this cancellation has spread among the student body, many students are angry that the tradition they have been looking forward to for years will no longer exist when it will be their time to graduate, even creating a Facebook page in protest.

But why all the fuss?

Graduation is supposed to be a professional, dignified ceremony. It is not a party. It is completely unnecessary, and frankly disrespectful, to expect to show up to such an event completely smashed.

For ladies, I would suspect that walking in a long dress and heels is a difficult enough process without the added influence of alcohol, and men certainly don’t need any more motivation to act like idiots in public.

Some may argue that people will get drunk anyway, and that it will make it more dangerous because they will try to drive from farther away. With Dog House being so close to the Save Mart Center, it would seem reasonable to provide it as a safe haven for people who choose to drink.

But that’s not the point.

The early opening with drink specials is encouraging drinking. It is encouraging people to come and get drunk, when otherwise they probably wouldn’t have.

The fact that it is so close to Save Mart Center seems so convenient that it makes people think it is acceptable and safe for them to get tipsy and just walk to graduation. It is making being drunk at graduation more accessible and acceptable when this should not be the case.

Yes, graduation is not a fun thing to sit through. But it’s not supposed to be fun. It’s a ceremony: a formal, polite and distinguished progression, honoring students for their years of hard work and accomplishments.

Would you want to be sitting next to someone on the verge of vomiting? Someone acting belligerently? Someone stumbling up the stairs to the stage in front of you?


Graduation is long and boring, but just deal with it. You dealt with it in middle school. You dealt with it in high school. You dealt with it for your brother or sister or friend. Just sit there in the crowd of thousands of other bored faces and deal with it like a responsible adult – as someone who is, I don’t know, graduating from college, maybe?

If not for your sake, for the sake of the person sitting next to you. For your parents, who have waited 20-something years to see you walk. For the administrators who are trying to get through the event without a hitch.

I commend the owners and managers of Dog House Grill for their willingness to abide by Oliaro’s request. The restaurant is a separate entity that has no obligation to do what Fresno State asks, but it chose to do so for the betterment of the campus and community, and out of respect for the establishment that indirectly provides a source of much of its business.

Don’t boycott Dog House. Don’t go get drunk somewhere else. Don’t speak ill of the university for only doing what is in its best interest as an institution of higher learning. Don’t ruin the reverence and dignity of a long-held tradition of honor and accomplishment.

It may seem boring and pointless now, but in 20 years, you will look back on your college graduation and be thankful that you can actually remember it.

  • Dan

    Guess what? One of the other campus area bars will step up and open early on graduation day. Graduation weekend has always been a drunken mess for as long as I can remember. Heck, when Commencement was over at Bulldog Stadium, the U threatened to do pat down searches for bottles and checked bags for booze. Beach balls were also banned. Students will figure out a way to get around whatever campus tries to decree. Perhaps the U needs to butt out of what the private sector is up-big government messing into things it shouldn’t.

  • William S.

    This is a carry over of abolitionism, when alcohol was demonized, producing large scale rebellion to go out and get drunk just because those in authority said you couldn’t. Our society can’t even tie its own shoelaces, let alone foster responsible drinking. Graduating seniors should be put on notice: show up drunk at commencement and you’ll be removed and cited by the police for public intoxication, and given a free ride in the back seat of a paddy wagon. Maybe spending the day in jail sobering up, missing graduation, will do more than simply allowing them stoopishly walk the line.

    • William S.

      oops.. meant to say prohibitionism! Late night.

  • Matt

    I agree with you, for the most part.

    The only thing I would have to disagree with is the fact that graduation should be boring. I know that wasn’t your point, but you did make it clear that we should be willing to suffer through it.

    As a sixth-year senior graduating in two weeks, I am looking forward to graduation. I know it won’t be a party and I know it won’t be extremely exciting, but some of us do enjoy the ceremonial aspect of graduation. The formality of the whole thing is kinda the point. So I would hope that since the ceremony is totally optional, the people there would want to be there, and those who would would find it painfully boring wouldn’t go.

  • Jesse

    Graduation ceremonies are not boring! I feel that the author doesn’t support his case much by stating that they are. This article generalizes all of those who would like to go to Dog House Grill before graduation as having motives to become overly intoxicated. Is this guy even 21? Does he know that people drink for taste or to toast a celebration, not just to get drunk. One or two beers or mimosa’s is not going to do anything to most people. He would better support his case if he provided data or facts on the number of graduates who actually vomit at graduation or act belligerent, instead of just generalizing. It’s my guess that the number of “hammered” students at graduation is a very small number compared to those who have 1 or 2 drinks before. I was looking forward to attending to get some of Dog House Grill’s amazing food and have a few beers with my friends as we discuss and get excited for graduation, not to get drunk.

  • Dalton Runberg

    Yes, I am actually 22 (and graduating in 2 weeks), and I very much enjoy drinking beer for the taste of it (just look at my Instagram). But this is the case where the few people who abuse the opportunity ruin it for the rest of us. In any situation where alcohol is involved, there are always the people who go overboard with it and cause problems. Yes, I was generalizing, but we don’t have specific numbers — just Oliaro’s statement of a “number of students.” It could be 2, it could be 10, or it could be 100. Those are the people this article is addressing, because those are the people that raised attention to the issue to begin with.

    People I’ve talked to have said that they intended to get drunk to sit through graduation specifically because it is so long and boring, and being drunk would ease the “pain” — hence why I included that. They then said they’re just going to drink at home now, which is completely irresponsible and stupid. Closing Dog House won’t prevent the issue completely, but it certainly doesn’t encourage it.

    I’m just pointing out that I can understand where the university and Dog House are coming from by doing this, yet all I’ve heard is people demonizing them for it. People need to understand that it is also a safety concern in addition to simply being respectful. If someone gets drunk at Dog House and gets hit crossing Shaw that morning, that could present some big problems.

    My point is that if you’re going to have a drink, just do it afterward. If you go to a wedding, you don’t drink beforehand. You wait until the reception. Same goes for graduation.

    And honestly I just don’t understand why anyone would want to wake up any earlier than is already necessary… 8 a.m. is far too early in the morning as it is, for me anyway.

  • Dalton Runberg

    And William brought up a good point, that the university or Dog House could take care of cases on an individual basis and deal with the few people who are acting like idiots, or limit drinks at the restaurant to just 2 or 3. Maybe they’ll work out a compromise in the coming years, and I hope they do, but for now, this is probably just a knee-jerk reaction to some of the alcohol-related things happening on campus recently. It is unfortunate, but it’s nothing for people to get super upset about like they have been. You’re graduating from college — that should be a bigger deal (and a higher priority) than going to the bar at 6 a.m.