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Four college bars have been taken over by University Commercial Services, sparking outrage among students across the University.
Under plans announced in the University’s Bars Review, the licensees of Cartmel, County, Grizedale and Pendle bars will no longer report to their respective college principals, but to the University’s Commercial Services Director, David Peeks. The other five bars will come under the responsibility of Mr. Peeks at a later date.
Peeks is responsible for all the University’s various non-academic services, including Folio print shop, the Conference Centre and University’s Hospitality Division. Catering outlets such as The Venue, Barker House Farm and Fylde Coffee Shop, which have often been criticised for their standards of customer service and their overpriced, poor quality food and drink, are also under Mr. Peeks responsibility.
Under the traditional set-up, each college bar has its own licensee (or Designated Premises Supervisor, in management-speak) who is appointed by the college. But under plans announced by the University’s Bar Review Group, the licensees of Cartmel, County and Grizedale will be centrally managed and appointed, giving control of decisions such as choice of beverages to bureaucrats in University House.
The University have admitted that the intention behind the take-over is to ‘diversify’ the scope of the bars, to include food as well as drink, leading to the suspicion that grey-shirted University Catering staff will eventually replace college bar staff.
In a statement, the University said: “the bars will be developed with distinct identities and will reflect changing student demand – for example by diversifying, combining food and drink etc to ensure financial sustainability.”
The streamlining agenda of the University has been met with significant opposition by JCR Execs and the Students Union. Student officers are unwilling to see the college bars run by the frequently lamented University Catering. LUSU’s Union Council passed policy last year to campaign for nine independent bars on campus, each run by their respective colleges, with input from each JCR.
The Students’ Union and JCRs are not alone in their opposition to the University’s plans. Lancaster University Labour Club appeared on the front page of SCAN last year for organising a series of ‘Drink-ins’ as part their ‘Save the College Bars’ campaign. Over 800 students signed the Labour Club’s petition to keep nine independently managed college bars.
Pressure from the Students’ Union has already resulted in some concessions by the University. After demanding that colleges have the right to veto private functions, the University caved in, saying “Bars will not be used in term time for external events without the consent of the Principal.”