Exclusive: Bristol hall bars lost over £150k last year and have been threatened with closure

‘The management ranged from thin to non-existent, allowing bar staff to take advantage’


Halls bars have been threatened with closure as staff are warned not to drink on shift and stop giving free drinks to their friends, The Bristol Tab can reveal.

The bars made a loss of over £150,000 last year, figures from a Bristol Tab investigation show.

Amid this, former staff have come forward to criticise the management of the bars, with one saying "thin to non-existent" management allowed "bar staff to take advantage."

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Bar staff were sent an email in September in which they were told not to consume alcohol on shift or give "away free drinks without charge.”

The email read: “Should this be observed to continue the Bars Management will have no option but to close the bar with immediate effect, and the staff concerned will be subject to a disciplinary investigation under the University procedures.”

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A Freedom of Information request from Bristol University has revealed that first year hall bars failed to break even by £154,095 last academic year.

Whilst the income from these bars amounted to £217,645, the cost of the hall bars overheads and management totalled £371,740.

A former member of bar staff told The Tab: “Other than the duty staff potentially showing up once during the shift, there was never anyone to manage you.

“When you’re serving your friends in an unmanaged bar, you feel it fine to have a drink. The same is true in all bars in and out of the university, it’s not a surprise.”

The concern over lack of management seems to be shared with other former members of the university bar team.

Another previous member of staff told The Bristol Tab: “There has never been a real management structure across the hall bars. In some other halls, the management ranged from thin to non-existent, allowing bar staff to take advantage.

“The disorganisation has meant that staff could very easily give away free drinks, or drink themselves behind the bar without anyone noticing. I’m glad the university is professionalising the operation, but the corporate money-making attitude will result in lost customers, and eventually no hall bars.”

A university spokesperson told The Bristol Tab that whilst Bristol uni has no interest in making a profit from the bars, they are not designed to run at a loss.

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The spokesperson commented: "The hall bars have been operating at a significant loss for a number of years because of changing patterns of student demand and the important need to ensure that all staff involved in running bars are paid a living wage.

"The bars are now run by the University's Head of Catering and her experienced team and they are making changes to make the bears run more efficiently and also to make the bars more attractive to today's more diverse student base.

"We will be further reviewing what students want from their bars during this academic year, looking at current trends and future needs."