The University of Winchester has opened a bar, but drinkers must complete a test before they are allowed any alcohol. 

Winchester is one of the few UK universities to have a ‘bar lab’ where experiments on the effects of alcohol on human behaviour can be monitored in a relaxed atmosphere. 

Until recently it was more like a lab than bar, but a makeover has seen it transformed into a cosy venue renamed Wendy’s – in honour of the Psychology Department’s first alcohol researcher Dr Wendy Kneller. 

To create an authentic atmosphere Wendy’s has twinkling lights, bar optics, piped-in background chatter and club music. Hampshire Chronicle: Dr Jackie Hillman, student Sophie Cawley, and Dr Debbie Crossland at Wendy's BarDr Jackie Hillman, student Sophie Cawley, and Dr Debbie Crossland at Wendy's Bar (Image: University of Winchester)

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The chief bartender is Dr Debbie Crossland, who leads the University’s Psychology with Criminology programme, and co-convenes the Centre for Forensic and Investigative Psychology. 

Dr Crossland said: "The refurbishment of the bar lab gives us what we call ‘ecological validity’. We need the drinking environment to as closely resemble real life as possible, to ensure the reliability of our findings, and to further inform police practice.” 

The old bar lab ran for about 15 years before COVID-19 called time on the breathalyser and the experiments. But Wendy’s more realistic feel means that the bar is back open and the research is flowing.

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With her speciality cocktail of ethanol with lemonade and/or orange juice, Debbie conducted much of her PhD research in the old-look bar.

She continues the important work of studying the effects of alcohol on eyewitness memory, by providing a consenting bar customer with alcohol – up to the drink-drive limit – and then showing the drinker a video of a crime

The mock witness is then tested on their recall of the events they have just seen. Debbie’s studies have found that after a few drinks (above the drink-drive limit) witnesses remember fewer details than a sober witness, although these recollections remained as accurate.  

Those below the drink drive limit, however, were just as accurate and remembered just as many details as a sober witness. Debbie’s previous research in the old bar has even informed the Ministry of Justice’s most recent Achieving Best Evidence Guidelines for police officers.