Bodies on a packed dance floor start to bounce as techno music pulsates from stacked speakers; bikini-clad women spin down poles and a DJ exhorts the crowd, “If you’re not drunk ladies and gentleman, get ready to get f***** up! Let’s do this! All the alcoholics: Let’s go!”
The YouTube video was shot at a bar last year in the heart of Washington State University’s Greek row. It may be a typical college bar scene, but what makes it unusual is that it takes place in a building owned by the college – the same university that created a task force this year to research alcohol abuse on campus and now requires its freshmen to take a class on the dangers of substance abuse.
The bar, Stubblefields, is known by students for its drink specials, Jell-O wrestling, foam parties, pole dancing and fights, including the recent assault on WSU instructor David Warner outside the bar. The venue is a tenant in Adams Mall, an old schoolhouse that was purchased by WSU nearly a decade ago.
WSU President Elson Floyd would not directly respond to questions about the university being associated with a venue that former and current students consider one of the wildest bars in town.
“I need to begin with the fact that the acquisition of this property happened before my presidency,” Floyd said. “We are constantly re-evaluating contracts. Two more years are remaining before a decision has to be made about renewal of Stubblefields’ contract, and we will have to evaluate it at that point.”
He added, “If there are windows to re-evaluate the contract sooner, we will.”
The university purchased Adams Mall in 2004.
“The mall was disintegrating and we had an opportunity to buy it,” said Mel Taylor, WSU’s executive director of real estate and local relations. “Our future intent is to use it for academic purposes.”
Adams Mall is the only university-owned property that has retail businesses in it, he said. In addition to Stubblefields, there’s also a Pita Pit, a Mexican food restaurant, a corner market, Jimmy John’s and Domino’s Pizza.
Pullman Police also rent space in Adams Mall, “but it’s very rarely utilized … the office does not maintain hours,” said Cmdr. Chris Tennant.
Corporate Pointe Developers has a 30-year contract to manage the building, Taylor said. WSU receives 10 percent of the gross rent from Adams Mall, which is about $3,000 per month.
“WSU bought the building because a bar, Shakers, that was in there was out of the control,” said K. Duane Brelsford, Corporate Pointe Developers president and managing member. “Within six months of taking over the property, that bar was gone.”
After a restaurant-lounge moved into that space and failed, Stubblefields became a tenant a few years ago.
“Unfortunately, Adams Mall gets a bad rap. The goal was to create a place where the kids could go instead of drinking in live-out houses (off-campus party houses),” said Brelsford, a 1981 WSU grad. “We deal with situations that happen on our properties each time. We keep WSU aware when we have problems. The first few years we had a lot of problems. But we finally have cleaned up the place.”
Pullman Police statistics tell a different story. In 2004, there were 139 calls to Adams Mall. Last year, there were 151 responses, police records show.
“It’s a challenge,” Brelsford said. “It’s never going to be easy with college students, and I think it’s a better situation than it’s been in a long time.”
Tennant, of the Pullman Police, said the calls may be up but in many cases they are made by management to deal with potential problems before they get out of hand.
Statistics can tell “whatever story you want them to tell,” he said. “We are often called to the establishment by management to look at questionable IDs, when someone is too intoxicated or sometimes before a problem starts.”
And, although police are often there for intoxicated customers, Tennant said the bar “gets a bad reputation for overservice, but what happens is a lot of people pre-function other places and go there.”
Still, the area has a reputation for violence.
“There are a lot of fights there,” Tennant said. Pullman Police used a $300,000 grant from the Department of Justice to evaluate crime trends in the city. The research showed that the Adams Mall area accounted for the highest number of assaults in the city.
Police told a Daily Evergreen reporter in 2011 that “every night is fight night” outside Adams Mall.
Attempts made to reach Stubblefields’ management were unsuccessful.
Warner, who was assaulted outside Adams Mall last month, is at a rehabilitation facility where he’s recovering from a traumatic brain injury, police officials said.
As a result of the findings, the Department of Justice grant also paid for surveillance cameras to be positioned around Adams Mall to see if that would deter violent behavior.
“As a police department, we don’t get a say in what businesses come here,” he said. “So, when management works with us, we do appreciate it.”
Brelsford – the property management company president – said the university isn’t powerless: “If WSU wanted to, they could buy out the (management) lease and do what they wanted with the building.”