February 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 70  

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Spoke to be renovated after profit plunge
Wet/Dry collapse in part to blame for losses

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff
Pete Bastedo/Gazette
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. The Spoke is quiet and serene, yet soon it will be bustling with workers as the bar undergoes renovations.

Significant renovations proposed by the University Students’ Council for The Spoke may see much of the bar’s current space receive a “dry” designation, with a small area cordoned off for alcohol consumption.

“The intent is to propose a renovation for The Spoke to make it more relevant to the entire student body,” said USC general manager Mark Sellars, explaining how changing demographics have reduced the campus bar’s profit as there are now more underage students unable to purchase alcohol. “We want to make it more student friendly [and] make it economically viable.”

The renovation would see a glass partition blocking off the licensed area of the bar with room for about 100 people, Sellars said. New chairs and tables would be installed in the remainder of the bar with the current wooden booths along the windows removed to make room for new eateries, he said, adding the plans also call for InfoSource to be moved in to the area to increase traffic.

“The reality is our alcohol sales are on a steady decline,” he noted. In 2002, alcohol sales were $415,000, but in 2004 they dropped to $255,000 due to what Sellars called a younger student population and a generally smaller crowd in The Spoke.

Additionally, profits have fallen from $91,000 in 2001 to just $5,000 in 2003. This year, the bar is expected to suffer a $49,000 loss, he said. “That’s a pretty dramatic trend that has to be stopped.”

THE NEW AND REVAMPED SPOKE? The Spoke’s renovations include a partition between what will become The Spoke Pub and The Spoke Lounge that will separate drinkers from their underage brethren.

The proposal was presented to the USC at last night’s council meeting for information and will probably return as a posted motion in two weeks asking council to approve the project in principle along with a $500,000 envelope budget, Sellars explained.

“The goal [of the renovations] would be to hang on to that Spoke identity in a smaller venue,” said Spoke manager Andrew Mes. “This is the beginning stages of something,” he said, but stressed that there are a still a lot of unanswered questions concerning the proposal.

Still, Mes believes the proposal seeks to address a growing student need for more study space. “I’m very enthusiastic about it.”

But even if the proposal and budget are approved, questions loom over whether the university’s planning department will be able to schedule and begin construction for September 2004, when Sellars hopes to have renovations completed by.

“Our approach is we’ll try to accommodate it,” said Dave Riddell, associate VP-physical plant and capital planning. Depending on the project’s complexity, The Spoke’s new appearance may remain on the drawing board until Western can decide when construction can actually begin, he said. “We need ample time to do design and call tenders... we’re up against it right now,” he said, explaining how “hundreds” of projects are slated for the summer months, when construction is at its busiest.

USC President Paul Yeoman said renovations are needed to run events that will accommodate all students, regardless of their age, as well as study areas, adding that presently such space is extremely scarce. “Our community centre, unlike other schools, doesn’t really have any lounge space,” Yeoman said. “[But] we still wanted to maintain the bar area of The Spoke.”

Student reactions to the renovations were generally positive, but the proposal is likely to upset some.

“I would prefer to see the Wet/Dry Program reinstated,” said Paris Meilleur, a social justice and peace studies student at King’s College. “[But] if that’s the way they have to go, then do the renovation.”

Krys Jasinski, a second-year engineering student, said the renovations are a bad idea. “I can’t study and drink a beer.”



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