Though there has been no official notification given to students, the UNBSJ campus bar, Howlers, has ceased normal operating hours.
Howlers was open in the campus centre above the cafeteria at 4pm every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Cory Brown, Manager of Residence and Conference services who is responsible for the operation of Howlers explains,“the main reason (for closing) is financial issues, to say that (howlers) doesn’t make money is wrong because we are not in it to make money” however “it loses a tremendous amount”.
UNBSJ isn’t alone with in its financial woes around the campus pub. An article published at Canada.com in 2007 states that campus pub patronage is down accross the country, with many students choosing to spend their money elsewhere.
“UNBSJ is one of a few Canadian Universities, that still runs its own bar. Most are run by student unions or the university would lease space to someone in the community” Says Brown.
“Given the financial state that we (UNBSJ) are in I just didn’t feel that it was right that students come in and underwrite that loss”.
While exact figures are not available sources say that losses last semester were close to $9000, despite nearly breaking even in the previous year.
A decline in the number of events hosted at Howlers by the SRC and a less successful football season for the Seawolves, who often attended after home games, may have contributed to the closing, however, lack of student patronage is the ultimate reason.
“The real drive at (Howlers), from a sales perspective, has always been the SRC events. When it is just open normally, there are some days when you don’t sell anything. Zero sales.” says Brown.
Students’ Representative Council (SRC) president, Jordan Tracey, is upset that the SRC was not consulted in the decision by the university.
“I absolutely do think we should have been involved in that decision,” he stated, “I know it’s not our financial burden, but it is student life”.
While Tracey says the SRC plans to host more events at Howlers this semester, he is quick to point out the challenges faced with the venue.
“Often times it was less of a hassle to book somewhere else.” Says Tracey, explaining, “with security, and campus police (CP) it was expensive to run (events). Where-as when we hosted at Lily Lake, like our Two Year’s Eve party, it was the difference of almost $1000 between hiring three bouncers vs. hiring 10 CP’s for 300 people”.
Despite the challenges, Tracey believes the bar has a lot of social value, “as a part of the student experience, whether or not you go in and drink, it’s a social aspect”
With this belief in mind Tracey, along with UNB SRC vice president social, Jenna Evans, and new bar manager Jake Bowman are devising plan for what they would like to see happen going forward, which they will present to the university.
Tracey states that, “with proper promotion/marketing and actually having individuals come to the bar, that will keep it open and we will probably break even,”
Moving forward, Tracey is optimistic about the future of Howlers saying,
“it will be reopened, we’re just not sure how many days of the week yet,”
which is in stark contrast to Brown who says,
“never say never, but I don’t see it (opening) for the foreseeable future.”
For now, Howlers will remain available for special event bookings through Conference Services only, and with big differences in opinion between the university and SRC on how they see the operation of the business, the fate of the campus pub is unclear.