As you enter The Owl today, you walk over a floor graphic proudly stating that the student bar was established in 1967. Despite boasting a distinct history that is even longer than the University of Regina’s itself, it has been a long and challenging road to becoming the establishment we know and love today. In many ways, the history of the Owl is intrinsically connected to the history of the University of Regina Students’ Union.
In the early days, the University of Regina was known as the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. It was not until 1974 that the University of Regina became an autonomous University. Before the University gained autonomy, the Regina campus had a temporary students services centre built in 1968. This centre was designed to meet space and student life needs, and provided areas for dining, a cafeteria, accommodations, as well as lounge space and student offices. This dining facility was the earliest incarnation of The Lazy Owl.
This initial temporary Lazy Owl was only supposed to be in use for 4 years. Students’ quickly realized they needed more, however, it would take a long time for the province to recognize it as well. Starting in the mid 1960s, a building fund was collected from members of the Students’ Union destined to cover part of the cost of building a new student centre. After decades of lobbying and raising money, in 1986, the Saskatchewan government announced would contribute the funds needed to construct the new student building, and it was planned that construction would begin early the next year. However, economic circumstances and other factors at the time caused this project to be delayed even further. Finally, after 26 years of planning, the dream of the new student building (now known as the Riddell Centre) started to materialize in 1995.
Changing The Lazy Owl into both a bar and a restaurant was another hurdle faced by the Students’ Union. Prior to the late 1970s, the students’ lounge was only allowed to serve alcohol one day a week (Thursday), for four hours. At the time, the idea of a drinking facility for students was controversial. In response to these restrictions, the Students’ Union attempted to acquire a private club license for the cafeteria of the Students’ Service Centre. Eventually the Students’ Union was successful in acquiring a liquor license that allowed them to serve 3 days a week, and converted part of their student centre on the university campus to a lounge.
Operating with an “occasional liquor permit”, the on-campus lounge struggled despite enthusiastic support because they were restricted to selling liquor for lower prices and for fewer hours than other beverage rooms. After being denied a full liquor permit for many years the Students’ Union turned to student leaders who organized around the issue. Throughout the late 70’s and the 80’s the Students’ Union set up several meetings with the liquor licensing commission, armed with petitions bearing hundreds of names. After a great deal of work, The Owl was able to operate competitively as the bar and restaurant that it is today. Despite that, the tradition of operating the bar with slim margins to provide the best prices for students has continued.
Throughout its history the Owl has hosted students’ political causes (as well as many prominent politicians), and has provided a space to showcase students’ talents with live shows and great music. Students have even participated in planning and performing certain renovations to the facility. The Owl was created for the students, by the students.
Today, as students recognize and take their place as contributors to the greater Regina community, the Owl has begun to play its part. Available for events, concerts, weddings and more the Owl stands as an example of how students new and old, have worked to make the Regina community a better place for everyone. At the same time it is a monument to how students and the Students’ Union, have shaped the history of Regina and Saskatchewan.