Branford College students who were looking forward to partying at Harvest Wine Bar and Restaurant during their college screw this weekend will have to change their plans.
Harvest has previously been a popular destination for Yale events: it hosted Saybrook Screw on Oct. 3 and was slated to host the Yale College Council’s “Harvest Hoedown” on Oct. 17. But after concerns arose about overcrowding and underage drinking, Harvest has decided that it will no longer allow anyone below 21 years of age in the bar area after 11 p.m., and will no longer host gatherings other than private events of under 100 people — precluding many college screws and other larger events. Harvest Hoedown was relocated to Box 63 American Bar & Grill the day before the event was set to take place, and Branford Screw, which was also scheduled to be at Harvest, has since been moved to Kelly’s Gastropub.
“The manager was incredibly nice, and since Harvest is a new restaurant, Yale is still testing the waters with them, because Yale is the landowner,” Branford College Council President Joe Crosson ’16 said. “In the past few weeks, there were a couple of transports from Harvest to Yale Health and Yale-New Haven Hospital, so the restaurant is already a bit on thin ice.”
Crosson added that when working with Harvest, the two major concerns the restaurant brought up were the expected number of guests at the event and ensuring there was no alcohol consumed by minors. Wilson Siguenza, Harvest’s owner, said the prospect of underage drinking is a matter the restaurant takes seriously.
Initially, Crosson said, the Branford College Council worked with Harvest to address the possibility of underage drinking. The council agreed to exchange half the alcoholic drink tickets provided by the restaurant for an open soda bar in order to lower the amount of alcohol in circulation. The council also promised to check Yale IDs because fake Yale identifications are not as common as other forms of fake IDs, he said.
But at the end of October, Crosson said, Siguenza told him that Harvest would officially be prohibiting students under 21 from entering the bar area after 11 p.m. The new provision was a significant constraint, as the majority of Branford students who would be attending the event are under 21, Crosson said. He added that after both parties realized the new guidelines were not ideal, the college’s initial deposit of $300 was returned.
“Harvest didn’t want to mess with the Yale administration, because [Harvest is] already at a point where its liquor license could be taken away,” Crosson said. “In the past, people had a good time [at Harvest], but there just happened to be some incidents and underage drinking is a huge problem for a new establishment.”
Branford Screw is not the first event that has been forced to relocate at the last minute. Over 1,100 people were invited to the YCC’s Harvest Hoedown through Facebook, and 448 people indicated that they would attend the event, which was ultimately relocated. YCC Events Director Amour Alexandre ’17 said she could not speak to the reasons why Harvest said it would no longer be able to host the Harvest Hoedown.
Siguenza said an event of such magnitude would make it difficult to monitor underage drinking.
“It’s very easy for a student of legal drinking age to slip an alcoholic drink or a drink ticket to an underage student, especially if the restaurant is crowded,” Siguenza said. “Even if we pushed the limit, the restaurant can only fit at most around 150 people, and having over 1,000 people invited to attend the event was way over capacity.”
Crosson, who is unaffiliated with the YCC, said the YCC did not cap its event, and that the large number of expected attendees would have been unfeasible for Harvest. He added that, to his knowledge, the Yale administration reached out to Harvest and told the establishment that it could not hold such a large event.
The last Yale-affiliated event to be held at Harvest was Saybrook Screw at the beginning of October. Saybrook College Council Activities Committee Co-Chair Magdalena Zielonka ’17 said there were no issues during or after the event, adding that she was only recently made aware of Harvest’s new policy through a friend.
“Establishments that hold a liquor license understand their responsibilities and the implications of service to minors,” Yale Deputy Chief Communications Officer Michael Morand said. “The University is sensitive to such issues and University Properties reminds tenants of their responsibility to the community to set and maintain high standards.”
Harvest officially opened on Halloween of 2014.