Thursday 22 February 2018

Last ditch talks to save university's student bar

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter Exclusive

UCD's Student Club has debts of €100,000 since January 2011 alone

UCD Student Club -- once Ireland's busiest bar -- has losses of almost €100,000 and is set to close by the end of this month, unless radical cost saving measures can be agreed within days.

High-level talks are to resume next Wednesday in a last minute effort to save the legendary bar, but if no resolution is found by the end of this month, it will be closed down.

At risk are nine full-time jobs, and it has emerged the UCD Student Club has failed to publish accounts for almost seven years.

A members' club, the bar is not run by the college authorities but rather a bar committee made up of student representatives and some academic college staff. The committee is locked in talks with bar staff over cost reduction measures to "ensure the bar has a future", a source said.

"Yes this is a question of the bar's viability," Pat de Brun, who is the Students' Union president but also sits on the bar committee, said.

"Things are at a delicate stage so I am hesitant to comment, but we are looking at trying to make the bar viable and that means a reduction in costs," he added.

A spokesman for the bar staff confirmed that they are locked in a last-ditch attempt to save their jobs. "We hope these talks can come to a successful conclusion," he said.

Part of the dispute is to centre around long standing bar bills dating back several years, including a bill of almost €90,000 relating to the Students' Union, it has emerged.

Were the bar to close, UCD would be left without any student watering hole on campus, as the only other bar on campus has been closed for over 15 months due to the construction of a new extended student centre.

Since it opened in the 1970s, as the central hub of activity for thousands of students during their time at the university, the bar has played host to many well known musical greats such as Shane MacGowan, The Dubliners, Aslan, Christy Moore and comedians Dara O Briain, Ardal O'Hanlon and many more.

However, a dramatic shift in student drinking patterns combined with the recession has seen turnover hit hard, with the losses of almost €100,000 being amassed since January 2011 alone.

It's the latest episode in a saga of financial crises to dog the university's student services since last year.

UCD Students' Union was forced to implement a host of cost cutting measures after it racked up losses of more than €1.4m, requiring it to receive substantial financial assistance of €750,000 from the university authorities.

Financial administrator Dave Carmody, a university employee who has handled the books for both the students' union and campus bars, has been on extended sick leave for some time.

Responding to the matter of the bar bill, Mr de Brun said: "I am not aware of that issue. It is the first I have heard of it but I certainly do not condone that sort of behaviour."

In the case of the Student Club, given the scale of the losses, the Sunday Independent understands that job losses are being sought by the bar authorities in a bid to ensure its viability.

Last year this newspaper revealed another student bar -- the Forum Bar -- which has been closed for 15 months had also failed to publish accounts since 2004 amid concern over its financial position.

Sunday Independent

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