Hall bars are dead – it’s time to give them back to us

No one cares about gourmet food

Walking through a Nottingham University hall bar on an evening before a big night out should be like pushing through the crowds of SU election lobbyists outside the Portland building, yet this is simply not the case.

The bars are dead and students take their pre-drinks elsewhere. Why? £1.80 for a pint (albeit of Carlsberg) is extraordinarily cheap and some of the bars are of very high quality (Echo at Derby, Hops at Lenton and Wortley and the other café bars spring to mind), so why do freshers and older students tend to avoid them?

Another rowdy night in Latitude Bar

Another rowdy night in Latitude Bar

According to Hugh Stewart Hall’s long serving porter, Steve Ellis, Hu Stu’s bar used to be the hub of the hall back before it was run by the University’s NU Bars service (who currently run all of the hall bars) and was instead run by the students, for the students.

Various events were held at the bar, with Porter Steve specifically mentioning a ‘Guinness night’ where representatives of Guinness would come to the hall and deliver ludicrously cheap pints of their famous brew for all to enjoy, which obviously drew a huge crowd to the event.

So what’s the reason for the downturn in activity since students were relieved of their duty? Incentive. NU Bars do not have the same level of incentive as students once did to make the bar the focal point of the halls experience.

A student run bar would need to raise a certain amount of money over the year in order to fund itself, let alone provide themselves with some pay.

Therefore, this workforce would be hell-bent on getting students into the bar and having a good time – things like having the aforementioned ‘Guinness night’ or other basic ideas like £1 pint evenings or general hall activities would be sure to get the bar more active, and in turn get people coming back again and again.

NU Bars obviously do not have this problem. With a larger operation comes a more distant relationship with the students, combined with the lack of a need for a constant flow of customers to stay afloat.

Bar priorities should be beer, then lunch

Bar priorities should be beer, then lunch

We therefore see very little care or effort going into incentivising students to visit the bars which you would see from a student run system (excluding the famous Campus 14 crawl, which, incidentally, has nothing to do with NU Bars).

This is why we are seeing bars which are closed by 11, barely even open on the weekend and generally not fun to be in. There’s no doubt that planned evenings and exciting bar nights could be done under the company scheme, but if they don’t need to do it, why should they?

Obviously, there are flaws with the idea. A student run bar would probably be somewhat disorganised – juggling studies and running a bar would be no easy task – and some of the things the bars currently do, such as the lunches, are really top notch.

This probably counts as a good day

This probably counts as a good day

But having pitched the idea to fellow students, many seem to see the positives rather than the negatives. Current Cavendish president Ben Orchard acknowledged how his bar was ‘always empty’ and ‘welcome[d] the proposal’, stating his interest in seeing ‘if it could work in practice.’

It just seems such a waste to let great facilities get ignored because of a lack of drive to push students back into the hall bars, and letting the bars be student run seems to be in theory a great way to get the bars back to the social hubs they could be.

The fact that SU presidential candidates were even batting around the idea that the hall bars could be – on the hall’s request – converted into study spaces really is a damning indictment on the current bar condition.

Perhaps student run bars are a little on the utopian side, but maybe something like this would help to get our halls and our Campus 14 looking a bit more active.