Foodservice director Brian Smart says student bar is unlikely to resume regular operating hours this year despite a recent takeover by campus caterer Chartwells.
In an interview with The Baron, Smart cited underwhelming patronage as the prime factor preventing the bar from operating on a regular basis.
When questioned on what was behind the lackluster business, Smart cited the suburban nature of the campus as particularly problematic.
“One of the difficulties we have with this particular location is the location of the campus itself and the sheer number of people that rely on their own transportation to get to and from the campus. Social responsibility doesn’t allow people to consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle which makes it difficult to have pub type functions”
While perhaps most severe, Howler’s recent financial difficulties are not the first time the bar has struggled to turn a profit. Since opening in 2003 under the name Colonel Tucker’s, the bar has been forced to reduce its hours in response to poor patronage on at least two separate occasions.
Following the fall 2015 semester, Howler’s nagging financial woes finally came to a head when it was shuttered by university officials after running a sizeable deficit.
In response to the financial burden, UNB’s residence and conference services ceded responsibility for alcohol service to campus foodservice provider Chartwells at the beginning of the 2016 fall semester in hopes the company’s expertise would benefit the failing establishment.
In spite of the recent challenges, Smart remains cautiously optimistic that the bar will eventually reopen and is working with the SRC to make this a reality.
As part of these efforts, SRC president Jordan Tracey has drafted a strategic plan which he hopes can serve as a blueprint for reviving what he believes is vital social institution.
“It is essential that the bar be open for regular and advertised hours because it is one of the few purely social places left on campus. Being able to grab a beer at your campus bar between classes is a right of passage for university students because it is a great place to forge memories and to have organic conversations with people you may or may not know,” Tracey says.
In his proposal, Tracey recommends not only a rebranding which would return the bar to its original name, but also increasing the visibility of the revamped institution through new signage and social media pages.
The plan also aims to attract students by establishing weekly specials and social events like Trivia and Karaoke.
Although much of Tracey’s plan is yet to be realized, the SRC has made progress towards revitalizing the space though the addition of a new pool table and fresh coat of paint.
While the recent renovations are aimed at making the bar more attractive to students, Smart believes ultimately it will be the actions of students that determine if and when Howler’s reopens.
“We have been doing a couple of sample events and we have not seen any attendance at these student-driven events,”says Smart.
“Until there’s student engagement in the operation of the pub, it really isn’t viable.”