By: Jenna Beetstra
Since June 15, when the SFSS closed the doors of Food and Beverage Services, there has been little known about what would be happening next for the spaces that were previously occupied by the Highland Pub, the Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, and the Ladle.
On September 1, the SFSS announced that the spaces and assets previously used by the SFSS Dining Services had been officially transferred to SFU. As mentioned in their statement, this includes the “Highland Pub, Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, MBC food court, and the catering kitchen.”
Personally, I think this is great news. As much as I would have liked for the Student Society to be able to own and run its own food and beverage services, which would make sure that the student’s interests are prioritized over financial and political motives, it just wasn’t happening, as shown by the deficits incurred over previous years.
There are definitely some changes that I would like to see happen for our Food and Beverage Services. Furthermore, there are strategies I’d like to see put in place in order to keep the Pub’s replacement more successful than what came before it.
The space where the Higher Grounds Coffee Shop sat is prime real estate for any coffee shop, so I’m excited that the plan is to have another one fill this spot in the fall 2017 semester. Walking all the way to West Mall for Tim Hortons or Starbucks, or to Renaissance on the far side of the AQ can be inconvenient, so being able to get a coffee right in Convocation Mall would be great. It’s also right across from the library, which makes it a sweet spot for selling coffee to all the studying students.
However, I wasn’t particularly fond of the Higher Grounds drinks. I like drinking tea and tea lattes as I’m trying to cut down on my coffee intake, and the Higher Grounds selection just wasn’t worth the money for me. I can’t say I tried too much of the food menu, so I can’t speak to the coffee shop as a whole, but from my few experiences, I wasn’t too impressed.
Tim Hortons would be a popular choice for a replacement due to its popularity in West Mall, and it’s much more budget-friendly than, say, Starbucks. But with the Tim Hortons we already have likely closing its doors in 2018 unless they can provide a fair trade option, it’s unclear whether it could be a viable option
Moving on to the Highland Pub space, which I think is what most students were upset to see closing: honestly, I didn’t even know where it was until a few semesters into my time at SFU. I didn’t live in residence, and I drove up the mountain, so I knew I couldn’t drink anyway. But even if I wanted to go, I didn’t know where it was, or if it was a good place to go, because no one ever talked about it.
I’ve never even gone out to party at UBC, but I know about the Pit pub. My dad tells me stories about going to UBC and nights at the Pit, and my current friends out at UBC have done the same. All major universities should have a go-to spot for students to get together with their friends, meet new people, and make memories.
SFU, the second-largest university in BC, has no such thing. But the location is great, and with the amazing patio, it could be an awesome pub with a décor upgrade, some solid food and drink specials, and a good manager.
University pubs don’t need to be extravagant, with chic photos and fancy lights. Most students live with minimal spending cash, and we don’t care if the pub looks like something out of a magazine. It has to have enough comfortable seating, and we will give it bonus points if there is no chipped paint or wood peeling.
I would love to see a casual-style pub, with some colour, to contrast the dark concrete walls of SFU in the winter months. Also, drink specials! Students love deals, and daily drink specials add a more fun and playful element. Happy hour is a must-have for both drinks and appetizers.
In particular, a university pub needs someone to plan and coordinate events. For instance: the Highland allowed students to host events, but I never felt they worked hard enough to draw people into those events. A proper event coordinator, who specializes in maximizing public interest in special events and making them happen, would be a key player in making the Highland a better environment and a more successful business.
One good strategy for event planning could be an events calendar app for the pub. Student groups and clubs could place requests to add their events, which an events coordinator or other specialist could moderate. Sports teams could post about their games and the pre- and post-game drinks surrounding them. By investing themselves more deeply into working with student groups on these events, the pub could advertise themselves to students — it’s mutually beneficial.
With this, all events are in one place, and students don’t have to rely on bulletin boards posted around campus. I hope they can get an event organizer who will work with sports teams, student groups, and other clubs in order to host fun events for all of us to enjoy.
The changes we’re seeing to Food and Beverage Services are the start of a great step for the future of our campus. I have hopes that, even though these spaces are no longer being run through the student society, students are still included in the decisions made regarding how to fill the vacated spaces. Hopefully, these decisions get made sooner rather than later, so that SFU students can have a place to come together again and enjoy a cold beer after a tough midterm.