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Committee seeks possibility of campus bar

April 12, 2007

Within a year, Chartwells’ contract will expire, bringing the possibility of opening a bar in the area of Mama Leone’s, which is a goal one committee on campus is looking to obtain.

In May, the campus decides whether to keep Chartwells as the food company on campus or find a different option.

As the idea is just being brought up, the University Center's Committee is beginning to formulate ideas and entertain comments on what the student body wants or doesn’t want at UW-River Falls.

“It’s debatable,” said Student Senate’s Facilities and Fees Board Chair Jim Vierling, who discussed issues on whether the bar would be a positive or negative addition to campus. “I really don’t think it would reflect what this building is trying to promote.”

The University Center (UC) is a building with many areas for students, faculty and staff to enjoy and relax, he said. Some might be able to relax with a beer in between classes or after a test, but for some, especially students under the age of 21, it wouldn’t mean a thing.

“Even if they put in a bar, it would only be used by about half the students on campus because most are under age,” first-year student Amy Olsen said. “It would definitely change the atmosphere and possibly deter students from campus because that is not what they want college to be.”

Olsen, who is 19 years old, said she probably won’t use the bar by the time she was of legal drinking age because she would rather go off campus and even out of town with friends.

The reputation of UWRF might be tainted by the presence of a bar on campus, Olsen said. Parents might perceive it as an easy way for students to place leisure activities over their schooling.

“It kind of defeats the purpose of college,” she said. “I don’t think it would be a very good idea to mix a university with a bar because students should focus more on academics.”

University Centers Chair Shaun Priesgen said the bar scene on campus would not be the typical downtown bar in River Falls, but rather a relaxing atmosphere for students and even faculty to unwind and enjoy a glass of beer.

“It would just be a nice place for students to get a beer after a long day, in between classes or after a test,” he said. “It’s going to be a place for students of age to hang out.”

Because the idea is still in the earliest of stages with no plans being set, Priesgen said it’s difficult at this time to make any judgments about how the campus community will perceive the idea, and what will come out of the idea in the future. The committee is discussing the possibility of a student-run bar, where the employees will be students. The other option is to have a company come in and operate the facility, but it wouldn’t happen for over a year because of the contract with Chartwells renting the area for Mama Leone’s.

The committee is looking this area because it is the least utilized area of the UC, Priesgen said. It’s not just the eatery he is considering as not being used, but the entire area, including the seating area and the 1874 Room, which is a glass-enclosed meeting room.

“I think it will open up a whole new avenue as a different form of entertainment on campus,” he said. “The committee is extremely open for suggestions and improvements to the idea.”

Vierling also said it would be a good area to convert that area into a bar because it is separate from the other eateries in the building and already blocked off from the adjacent seating and lounge area on the south side of the ground-level floor of the UC.

“It would be in its own separate location, which is easy to separate at this point,” he said.

With the cost of dining options in the UC already high for some students, Vierling said the option to sell beer, which is a money maker, might financially help keep prices low for food and student meal plans.

“We don’t want to take away business from downtown; that is not our motive,” Priesgen said. “It is not going to be for profit either with a no-gain operation and affordable to students.”

Senior Adam Richter, who is 22 years old, was hesitant about the idea of opening a bar in the UC in the first place because of UWRF’s already strict rules on drinking on campus since there are stipulations placed on the amount of alcohol students can have in the residence halls.

“It’s fine to be strict about it, but that’s why students go home,” he said. “It’s kind of funny they are considering this.”

Even though the idea of bringing the campus community together is a good idea, Richter said, but the likelihood of a bar seems unrealistic.

The cost of remodeling would highly influence the price of beer served at the bar, he said, which would make the prices extremely out of reach for the average college student’s price range.

“Look at Chartwells’ prices already; the cost is going to be about $5 a beer,” Richter said. “No one, especially a student, is going to pay that.”

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