Mount Allison students probably know how the Pond’s reputation has been dragged through the mud in recent years. Failed events, such as the Pond’s attempt to host a “Men’s Night,” have caused students to avoid the campus pub. One student captured this sentiment last week in an Argosy article about Club P, in which she made comments about “girlcotting” the campus pub in favour of the new, off-campus venue. Despite this sentiment, the Pond has not always had such a negative reputation.
The headline of an Argosy article published in 1974, the year the campus pub opened, reads, “The campus pub is thriving” – an unfamiliar phrase for current students. In recent years the Pond has been losing money and students’ interest, without many prospects of turning the business around. I’d like to see the Pond thrive again, but in order to do so it will need to make some serious changes in order to compete with downtown businesses.
Over the past few years places like Ducky’s, the Painted Pony, Joe and the Crow, and Thunder & Lightning have captured the hearts of the student body’s drunken spirits. For such a small town, Sackville has a surprising number of bar and club options. Whether you want to play pool with townies, join a bowling team while watching live music, or grind in a sweaty pit with your scantily clad peers, Sackville seems to have it all. So, what role does the campus pub play in the Mt. A student night scene?
Originally named the “Tantramarsh Club,” the campus pub served as a social gathering space for students, staff and faculty. Operated by 13 students and infused with a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, the pub was proudly independent from the student council and the University.
Flash forward to the early days of 2010, when the pub filed for bankruptcy. Later on that year the University Administrative Services department took over its financial management, citing the importance of sustaining a casual place to socialize on campus as well as the continual showcasing of art by Corey Isenor, the guy who painted the mural of those creepy, striped hands on the pub’s walls. After taking over, the University promised to form a student advisory committee that would look into student concerns about the pub.
Many concerns have been raised about the Pond in recent years. Whether it is due to the everlasting presence of Isenor’s art – which, let’s face it, has accumulated an irreparable number of bad associations – or its basement location, the Pond is failing in its mission to serve as a social place for students. Despite attempts to improve the Pond’s reputation, such as last year’s My Pond Is campaign, many students continue to see the pub as an unwelcoming space.
So, what should our campus pub look like? Should there even be a campus pub that is owned and paid for by the University? Is it feasible to go back to when the pub was owned and managed by students? Change is possible, as seen at other campus bars like the Inn at StFX, which is nothing short of bumpin’.
As your student Board of Regents representative, I have seen a financial report that detailed how the University has paid thousands of dollars to make up for the pub’s losses in some years. The administration has written this off, saying that it is typical for campus pubs to lose money. I do not see why an academic institution should be footing the bill for a business that only takes in money during improv shows or on the occasional dance night.
Students and the University must put in the effort to make the Pond a better environment. Whether this means repainting or assigning it as a project to the entrepreneurship commerce class, the pub is in need of substantial change. Otherwise, the University should accept that the campus pub cannot compete with Sackville’s other businesses and quit wasting money on something that is just not profitable.