February 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 70  

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What to do with The Spoke?

Though the news may be distressing to its loyal patrons, one thing is clear about The Spoke: student fees are helping to fund a bar that’s losing money.

Last night’s University Students’ Council meeting saw a $500,000 renovation proposal tabled by USC general manager Mark Sellars, which would see the majority of The Spoke’s floor space changed into an alcohol-free lounge area, separating a licensed area adjacent to the patio by a glass partition.

There are a few reasons for the proposed changes; for instance, alcohol sales are decreasing this year, while food revenue remains virtually unchanged. And secondly, there is a new demographic on campus, with an increased number of underage students due to the double cohort.

Most blame the loss in revenue to last year’s anti-smoking by-law and the implosion of the Wet/Dry Program. But if the Wet/Dry Program was truly working, alcohol sales would technically be unchanged.

The new proposal also features additional “food services” booths, which could be contracted out to corporations like those that run CentreSpot right now, and even proposes to increase traffic by putting InfoSource in the bar. While this would generate revenue during the day, fewer students can be found going out for six burgers on a Thursday night than those going for six beers.

Last year, The Spoke also saw increased traffic due to buck-a-beer Mondays, an initiative killed this year due to its financial inviablity. Similar promotions to attract students who can actually buy more alcohol could prove similarly effective.

While underage students also deserve a place to unwind on campus (as most of them live in residence and are essentially stuck here), the students who are old enough to drink — the ones still in the majority on campus — would be literally cornered by the plan.

It would make much more sense if they spent the $500,000 on a complete renovation minus the glass wall separating drinkers from non-drinkers like some kind of freakish zoo. The Spoke would thus become a place where people who do drink will want to return and spend their money, thereby boosting alcohol sales.

It’s clear that under-agers on campus need someplace to go. They have it. It’s called The Wave. It makes more sense to make The Wave the “dry” restaurant and keep The Spoke as the campus bar, as students old enough to drink are also notorious for avoiding bars swamped with 18-year-olds like the plague.

It’s obvious The Spoke could use a little facelift — the carpeting is gross and the lingering smell of smoke, beer and urine from years past isn’t helped by the smell of the kitchen’s grease; not to mention the broken chairs and tables, for that matter.

The current version of the renovation plan seeks the best of both worlds — too bad it probably won’t work.



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