The rumors are, in fact, more than rumors: Dog House Grill will not open early for its annual graduation celebration this year.
After a meeting on May 9, Fresno State’s vice president of student affairs, Paul Oliaro, sent a letter to the manager of Dog House Grill, Matt Billingsley, thanking him for honoring the request to not open early on the days of this year’s graduation ceremonies.
For the past three years, beginning in 2010, Dog House Grill opened its doors at 6 a.m. and had drink specials on alcoholic beverages in order to celebrate seniors graduating from Fresno State.
Last year, there were about 150 people waiting in line in the morning for the doors to open, and 500 people total showed up for the two-day event.
Billingsley said that at the May 9 meeting, Oliaro explained the goal of his request, and, in turn, Billingsley explained the intentions behind the graduation event at the grill.
In the letter, Oliaro noted that the effort was to “ensure that [graduation] is a safe and dignified event for the students and parents who will be celebrating this moment.”
Oliaro also wrote that the number of students showing up to the commencement ceremonies intoxicated was concerning.
Billingsley said the goal of the event was to honor graduating seniors.
“Our goal was to, like other cities, provide an atmosphere of college graduates so that they could interact with each other,” Billingsley said.
The goal was not to get students intoxicated, he said.
“No student was overserved [alcohol] in our establishment,” Billingsley said.
Billingsley said the relationship between Dog House Grill and Fresno State is worth more than one or two days of the year. Students, faculty and sports fans from the university account for more than half of the restaurant’s business.
In his opinion, Billingsley said that Oliaro was trying to make sure that the ceremony is as flawless as possible, especially since it is President John Welty’s last year.
“His job basically consists of making sure this commencement doesn’t go wrong,” Billingsley said.
Of the 500 people to attend the event last year, Billingsley said nearly 200 of those were alumni and family of graduating students.
“It’s more of a family event,” he said.
Billingsley noted that in college, many students partake in extracurricular activities, and others are more involved in the bar scene. He said this event was a chance for those students to interact with each other and share their experiences.
The event was also a way to give back to Fresno State patrons who were loyal to the restaurant, Billinglsey said.
“It was a good deal. We said, ‘We’ll give you some cheap drinks, some mimosas and buy everyone a shot.’ We saw kids here take their first shot in college when they’re graduating. It was more or less just a good time,” he said.
Some Fresno State students think the request was out of line.
Steve Bacca, 27, who is graduating this year with his degree in communicative disorders and deaf studies, said he has mixed feelings about the situation.
Bacca said he understands why Oliaro made the request and agrees that students shouldn’t be drunk at graduation.
“People shouldn’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol before a commencement ceremony,” Bacca said.
Although he wasn’t planning on going to Dog House Grill with the intent of getting intoxicated, Bacca said he was looking forward to hanging out with his friends and having a good time.
Likewise, Bill Scoggin, 50, who is graduating with his degree in anthropology, thinks it is inappropriate for students to be drunk at graduation.
“It shows a high level of immaturity and gives all young adults a bad rap,” Scoggin said.
He said drinking to celebrate a huge event is acceptable, but that some people abuse it.
Both Bacca and Scoggin think it was inappropriate for the university to make the request.
“I don’t like the way it was handled. It sounded like the [vice] president was making a decision for us,” Bacca said. “They don’t see the big picture.”
Scoggin said that graduates are adults and can choose on their own to get drunk before graduation or not.
“It was wrong, puritan in nature, intended to be largely symbolic and will not put a dent into the number of hung-over grads showing up for commencement,” Scoggin said.
Bacca said the request would not deter people from drinking before graduation.
“I think a better plan of action would be telling all grads that the police will be at the event and will arrest anyone they find who is intoxicated,” Scoggin said.
Billingsley said there are no hard feelings against the university for the request and that the restaurant will “honor the request with flying colors.”
Dog House Grill will open at its usual time, 11 a.m., on the days of graduation. Billingsley said he still expects it to be a busy two days.
“Graduation is always busy. It’s like an event night for us. It always has been a great day for us,” he said.