YUSU bars’ acquisition of D-Bar and Vanbrugh Arms in the summer was a major change of the on-campus bars landscape. Whilst before, D-Bar and Vanbrugh Arms were owned by the University and leased out to external companies, the move brought all licensed venues on campus under the management of YUSU Bars.
The most noticeable change was the implementation of Yo-Yo, the point-based payment system, to all bars which replaced the traditional chip-and-pin machines – an attraction for Vanbrugh Arms and D-Bar in days gone by. Yo-Yo rewards pounds spent with points which can be redeemed for prizes such as chip stacks and pitchers of beer. Despite the obvious benefits of Yo-Yo, the rewards were not ready for the first two weeks of term, leaving students having to use the more complex system of payment without being able to reap the benefits of it. This is compounded by the fact that the only location with ATMs on Campus West is Market Square.
The change has been criticised by student patrons as they bemoan the inability to pay without the use of a phone. This sentiment was echoed in the first weeks of terms in multiple Yorfess posts which criticised the move. Speaking to a Masters’ student who did their undergraduate at York also shared their opinion: “Whilst Yoyo across campus seems like a good idea, those stranded without phone battery are definitely worse off.”
The MA student then went on to criticise the change in products the bars offered becoming relatively standardised across the licensed venues that YUSU Bars now run: “University-owned bars had previously offered different pints. The drink deals various societies had are no longer being honoured; as someone that was two drinks away from a free Blackthorn at the Vanbrugh Arms, I’m fairly upset.”
Criticism of the takeover has not been limited to the bars which have been acquired with the service at The Courtyard also came under fire from students who have noticed a drop in the quality in the service since a number of new staff were employed in the wake of the takeover. YUSU President James Durcan noted that the Union were cautious not to hire “too many staff ” and thus they only increased the regular intake “slightly”.
Harry Clay, a second-year Philosophy student, took issue with the new staff at The Courtyard, saying: “it feels like the staff aren’t trying to work quickly, and I’ve seen a handful of people receiving the wrong order and lazy service that would easily be corrected with more effort”. Despite the criticism, Durcan noted that the “initial feedback on the venues has been really positive”, an assertion that is evidenced by the testimony of Nick Meadowcroft Lunn, a fourth-year Physics with Philosophy student. Lunn believes “since the takeover, V Bar and D Bar have provided better service, more pricing and a more welcoming environment. In particular, V Bar is a much more interesting place to drink, a friendly pub vibe as opposed to the grim bar of yesteryear.”
YUSU have since begun advertising for Bar Assistants in the last days, indicating that the management of the bars have recognised that there are still insufficient staff numbers working in the newly-monopolised campus bars.