The last ditch

Despite concerted attempts to revive them, our campus bars have not faired well in competition with venues in town. When drinking, it seems, students prefer to leave their place of study. McQs, Vanbrugh and the Wentworth Edge are last resorts at best.

YUSU have tried and failed to change this. We have seen the desperately named “Save our Bars” campaign and then “Campus Wednesdays”. Neither promotion achieved what it set out to do – that is, curb the nightly exodus from campus into town.

Given this, the decision by YUSU to take over Langwith Bar is a bold one. Matt Burton has so far proved a capable Services and Finance Officer but there is no hiding the fact that running a bar is new territory for YUSU. There is nothing to suggest that the venture will succeed as a business and a conflict of interests seems inevitable. Students will not drink on campus out of loyalty and the re-branded bar will struggle to compete with the campus bars once promoted by YUSU.

But if Langwith bar succeeds – and this paper sincerely hopes it will – it could be the answer. York students would for once be able to enjoy a night out on campus, the city’s clubs no longer an inevitability.

The responsibility, of course, lies with Burton. To turn around a struggling business would be a commendable achievement. To watch it fail further, however, could place our Union in dire financial jeopardy.


  1. When I first arrived at york i found it inconceivable that campus bars shut at 11. Want to retain custom on campus? Keep your bars open longer! And every day. Ever heard of a pub that only opened 2 nights a week?? It seems to me commercial services have completely given up on campus bars, and students as a target audience altogether. Foolish, as students are the consumer 30 weeks a year. conference guests are the consumer around 15 weeks per year.

    Certain bars could well do with being either; contracted out to a private company to run, or having their drinks on offer rotated. Since theres no difference between most campus bars in drink choice, pricing or target clientele, people will get bored very quickly.

    JJs would make a brilliant sports bar or live music venue, perhaps someone else should be given a go with the space? Contract it out to people who know a thing or two about running bars. Don’t just let it sit there unused.

    Bhenrys is an undiscovered gem for those outside alcuin, but it’s probably the most sensibly decorated bar on campus. But yet again, why bother going all the way to alcuin with its lack of cash machine and langwith bridge when you can have exactly the same experience in vanbrugh? Keep it open later with a few more offers, some branding and proper advertising around different colleges, and a bit more variety and campus could well have a dusk alternative on it’s doorstep.

    It’s clear the campus bars havnt been designed as bars – rather as daytime cafes for conference guests. With the exception of McQs perhaps, which at least attempts to be a pub. Albeit one where you have to go outside to use the toilets and that, for a student bar, shuts ridiculously early.
    I think the conflict of interest may be the biggest problem of all with campus bars. They are dining rooms, college event venues, coffee shops and YUSU event venues. There are just too many groups in control of small aspects of bars to enable any great change, because there must be so many compromises. Imagine if derwent because a proper 2-room club for york uni, done well it could be fairly profitable. But where would people eat. Where would elections be held? Where would derwent JCR have their events. The bars just don’t know what they want to be.

    For campus residents, the charles has superbly undercut all the campus bars at once with their mondays and fridays promotion. It has atmosphere, tasteful decor and decent sized garden. The offers aren’t even that much cheaper than campus, but at least they make the effort to appeal to money-conscious students. Commercial services should run a trip for it’s directors to nottingham – they have 14 campus bars, all of which drag in crowds every night , even to the extent that visiting all on the same night is now banned.

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  2. “The responsibility, of course, lies with Burton.”

    And also, may I suggest, with the campus media: a bit of positive coverage and support would go a long way. Whilst I would hate to suggest that Nouse should ever compromise its journalistic integrity, articles that present it as an exciting new prospect might help more than ones which present it as a ‘last ditch effort’ with “nothing to suggest that the venture will succeed”.

    Monty raises an excellent point about differentiation and I firmly believe that Langwith bar has the potential to be a massive success, but what will make it or break it will be how it is perceived by the student body.

    Certainly pricing and decor will be a major factor, but as anyone who has ever been to a Club D will tell you, what really makes the difference is the attitude of the people who go there.

    I really hope that everyone is prepared to get together and make it work by going there, even if it means making a sacrifice as it gets itself started, after all every pound we spend there will be going into YUSU’s rather than the universities or private companies funds, which can only be a good thing.

    I know I’ll be taking the opportunity to drink lots for the benefit of the student body as a whole!

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  3. Exactly- hopefully knowing the money spent will go back into services for it’s customers will encourage more people to spend a bit more time there.

    The refurb pics in nouse last issue looked pretty smart too, good to see outdoor space being considered – this should hopefully bring some variety. Stocking from NUSSL could possibly bring different beers, for those who fancy a change.

    As Lewis points out, it doesnt all rest with one man. There’ll be a finance dept. in the union overseeing the money side of the project, there;ll be staff overseeing the entertainment held there, and i presume langwith JCR will get some events held there too.

    If the venture fails, it won’t be the fault of the guy who came up with the idea, it’ll be indicative of a wider problem with campus life, and students’ attitudes concerning it, one such attitude i hope is outlined in my other post.

    Credit to Mr. Burton for taking a bold decision. This is what unions should be doing! Making decisions to improve our university experience and raise funds at the same time.

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