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Future of Highland Pub uncertain as fall semester begins

Food and Beverage Services plan to bring back Wing Wednesday, potentially allow minors

The future of the Highland Pub to be murky as it reopens for the fall semester.
The future of the Highland Pub to be murky as it reopens for the fall semester.
Image Credits: Chris Ho

Burgers and brews at the Highland Pub won’t be a thing of the past — at least for the time being.

In May, Martin Wyant, CEO of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) spoke to The Peak in the wake of the announcement that the campus pub would be closed during the summer semester. The closure meant that not only would thirsty students have to look elsewhere for a post- (or pre-) class beverage, but that the students who work at the pub would be left without shifts for an entire semester.

The decision to close the pub during SFU’s least busy semester was made by the Food and Services branch of the SFSS, which claimed that the pub’s loss in sales was too steep to justify being open for business. However, as Wyant explained in a recent interview, the semester-long closure “was an opportunity to identify the problems there and what we can really improve on.”

Wyant and SFSS interim president Larissa Chen confirm that the pub will indeed be open for business during the fall semester, but with a new business model in the works. They hope to explore a “more event-based, catering-based business offering to see if it will help us generate a better return for students,” explained Wyant. The new business model will be presented to the board in mid-October.

The pub will indeed be open for business during the fall semester, but with a new business model in the works.

Chen mentioned some possible ideas for future pub events in hopes of sparking student interest, including a “speaker series, open mic nights, karaoke, [and] trivia nights,” as well as reintroducing previously successful regular events such as Wing Wednesdays.

A possible game changer would be for the pub to allow minors. Wyant expressed that he is aware “students don’t always want to be in an environment that is dominated by alcohol,” and hopes to look into other options when it comes to the pub’s licensing. However, this move also poses difficulties, as the restaurant’s licensing is in the hands of SFU and not the SFSS.

Shayne Grimmer, a fan of the Highland Pub who has watched the pub’s decline in recent years, noted that these changes are long overdue. He told The Peak, “Until I see a detailed breakdown of why it’s costing over $700,000 [Editor’s note: The Peak was unable to confirm this number] to run a pub that’s only open five days a week and during school time, I will be very skeptical that something isn’t right.” He and friends who have worked at the pub believe a makeover like this is crucial for the pub’s survival and claim that fresh ideas for improvement of the pub have even been shot down in the past. From their perspective, poor management has contributed to the pub’s losses, and a change in how the pub is run could benefit everyone involved.

Attendance is only one half of the issue. Chen and Wyant emphasized that finances were the main reason why the pub was closed down this past summer, and continues to be a prominent issue for the SFSS.

As Wyant explained, there are a number of large expenses that must be paid to keep the pub open, including staff wages, operating costs, rent paid to SFU, and most significantly, the skyrocketing costs of food — especially in the last couple of years.

Furthermore, Chen noted that “there seemed to be inconsistencies with record-keeping” before Wyant began working for the SFSS. Sources close to staff at the pub attested to this, as they had previously experienced days and weeks of great sales from the pub and could not imagine that finances would be a problem.

The SFSS suggested students to offer feedback on what they want to see in the pub, emphasizing its value as a student space. However, it is unclear if there is a direct route for students to offer this input. Chen suggested this can be done by joining the SFSS Events and Promotions Committee, by emailing VP services, or filling out the input box on the SFSS website.

With files from Ashley Fraser.

  • peakie

    Food is not great, and calculating the markups on basic materials, it is very, very expensive.
    Banning smoking didn’t help.

    And the new brand of student doesn’t drink, beer nor much else.
    See the same history of the (now-) Diamond University Club that was a Faculty drinking club, with richer students allowed, but the bar bills killed it for many profs.
    Club Ilia, up in the University “Village” tried, but couldn’t get the crowds.

    Again the main failure is that is up on the mountain.

    It is time to move the whole campus down the hill. You only need 25 hectares to fit the present campus in and then the general population would benefit with “ground-level” access.

    • Quantumparadox

      While criticisms of the pub’s food prices may be valid, the rest of your rant is completely off base.

      Club Ilia is currently so busy they’re often turning people away. If they close it would only because of incompetent management and/or the building they’re in doubling or tripling the rent.

      There’s now 5000 full time residents on the mountain living in the “village” along with a full elementary school and a second school planned. 10 years ago you might argue to move the campus down the hill, but the population has now moved up to campus making it a moot point.

      Reconstructing a University the size of SFU would cost many billions of dollars. You can keep arguing for a move, but it’s simply not going to happen.

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