It’s last orders for the licensees

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When the cat’s away, the mice will play. And boy, are these mice having one raucous do in our absence. Come October, you may well find yourself wading through a ball pool of empty shot glasses, skilfully avoiding the sick on the walls.

After almost three years of false starts, barely intact eggshells and a whole lot of bullshit, the licensees of the nine college bars are finally dashing for last orders and preparing for the worst.

Not content with the collegiate system now being nothing more than an anticlimactic promise of wonder to prospective students, not fulfilled by college bars now resembling the inside of an early iPod, University House hopes to finally be rid of those pesky bar managers.

Were I staring redundancy in the face, I’d be relieved to be shot of a place where every potential controller wanted me to go away. Even LUSU, who were hailed by all as the saviour of the college bars, abandoned their takeover bid because the university’s HR department (to their credit) wouldn’t sack off the licensees and pay the redundancy packages for them.

Sorry, I just said that out loud, didn’t I?

Has there ever a stronger air of ‘grown ups talking’ than that which seeps from University House, as they remain infuriatingly ignorant of students who don’t want to drink on the set of a fifties B-movie based in the future?

Imagine you run a successful restaurant. All of a sudden, you find a significant dip in your fortunes. The shop averages about two returning customers a week who only do so because they can’t let go of the shoddy remains of the charm your establishment once had. You haemorrhage money from every orifice and, fed up of subsiding on 20 pence a month, decide to ask one of your many former customers why they don’t bother anymore.

“Why don’t you eat at my restaurant anymore?”

“Because since you switched to a different supplier, your meat started to taste like antique sewage. Go to the old supplier and I’ll come back.”

Having ascertained why your restaurant is gushing down the drain, you take the most obvious step towards improving your fortunes – You fire nine of your waiters, give highly paid managerial positions to three, who between them oversee the work of two part time waiters who are now on less pay. You close the restaurant for a year, spend a fortune redecorating and reopen a year later to fewer people, who eventually thin out because the food still tastes like antique sewage. What could be simpler than that?

And there ends our metaphorical journey into the minds of a sect of the University House Hierarchy, lumbered with the task of improving the profitability of our college bars.

We’ve learned many, many things from the staffing changes that the university is trying to railroad before our return. First of all, ‘improving performance’ doesn’t mean ‘make more money from something that has been improved.’ No, what it actually means is ‘save money by having fewer wage packets to fill, because then it doesn’t matter that the bars are still empty.’

Isn’t the primitive makeup of a managerial mind a morbid marvel to behold? Yet they have the matching brass balls and neck to even deign to suggest that what they are doing will ‘improve the student experience’.

Like hell it will.

Licensees are part of the dying collegiate breed, the sole thumb in the dike that restrains a tsunami of hegemony as it rages dangerously close to bursting point. And aside from the misty eyed yearning for ‘tradition’, these people know infinitely more of the craft and knowledge of publicanism than their overlords, who wouldn’t be seen dead in the venues that they’re sodomising into an unhappy adulthood.

Anyone who attends any pub on a regular basis will do so on the basis of two things – that the room doesn’t look like shit, and that there is a face there who knows what sells, what works and and what their ‘usual’ is. And as the university edges ever closer to loading the gun with which they shall shoot us and themselves in the foot, we can only hope that these proposals fall through and a climbdown ensues.

In the mean time, the best support we can offer is conveniently distant derision for the plans.

They don’t know what we want. If only, oh if ONLY they could somehow ask us…


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