Tale of a pub: Clark Hall’s progress

The Journal checks in with Clark Hall Pub and its staff one year after its re-opening

Charlie Scott, EngSoc president 2007-08, stands in an empty Clark Hall after the bar abrubtly closed down due to years of financial mismanagement.
Charlie Scott, EngSoc president 2007-08, stands in an empty Clark Hall after the bar abrubtly closed down due to years of financial mismanagement.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
A bustling afternoon Ritual last Friday. The pub’s “Turbo” pitcher has developed a cult following after its introduction last October.
A bustling afternoon Ritual last Friday. The pub’s “Turbo” pitcher has developed a cult following after its introduction last October.
Photo: 

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Clark Hall Pub’s re-opening.

Walking into the pub last week to speak with Engineering Society representatives and having attended last year’s grand opening, I couldn’t believe the difference a year can make.

Jonathan Hordo, last year’s pub manager, said its re-opening has been a success.

“I think the first year went really, really well,” he said.” There were a lot of challenges, things that we needed to deal with as they came up, but I think that overall, it was a very successful year. Obviously, the pub’s still open, so we did something right.” “I think we did better than what a lot of people thought we were going to do.”

The pub closed abruptly in June 2007 amidst revelations of financial and operational mismanagement.

Hordo, Sci ’09, said he’s proud of what the pub has accomplished in the last year.

“I think we just had a fresh start. There’s a lot of old traditions that were rooted within Clark that I think were problematic,” he said. “We were able to bring a new perspective to Clark. It’s something that if you’ve been inside for too long, you can’t really see.”

He said the pub would often reach its capacity of 140 people including managers and patrons last year.

Hordo said esthetic improvements to the facility have made it a more welcoming place.

“I think one of the biggest things we did was give it a facelift. We brought in new tables and chairs and a new paint job and new lighting. They may seem like small things, but when you put them all together and when you compare what the pub looked like before to what it looks like now, it looks a lot newer, a lot fresher and much more inviting.” Hordo said many of the pub’s capital expenditures—new tables, new draft towers and a new sound system, to name a few—were thanks to the $18,000 “Spark for Clark” contract EngSoc signed with the Commerce Society in April 2008.

The deal was contingent on the pub’s opening by Dec. 1 and granted commerce students privileges like 24 free bookings per academic year and priority use of the venue on Friday nights. The deal also granted commerce students “equal opportunity employment” at Clark Hall granting them the same priority as engineering students for all pub positions, as well as granting ComSoc full access to EngSoc’s financial records upon request.

“Last year it went pretty well. They ran a few events in here, I think it went really well. It was a good way to get commerce students involved with Clark,” Hordo said.

Hordo said hiring Jay Young as EngSoc’s general manager last year has been another factor in the pub’s success.

“[Young] really kept us on track. He kept us focused with what we needed to do to get the job done overall. Our Rituals were really, really successful, the live music was really successful on Thursdays and by the end of the year, our Wednesdays were starting to do a lot better.”

Young, ArtSci ’96, said the implementation of a new operational procedure increased the pub’s efficiency.

“I think that’s one of the best changes that we implemented,” he said. “Having a manager on duty responsible for the staff that are working, interacting with the StuCons, making sure that basically we’re operating in accordance to all regulations, as well as operating in a fiscally responsibility manner, … that change has been absolutely vital.”

EngSoc vice-president (operations) Ryan Low said the pub was expected to run a $14,000 deficit last year, but it was only $11,000 in the red. He said $9,000 of the deficit could be attributed to capital depreciation.

The pub wasn’t open for the first two business months of the last school year, which also contributed to the deficit, Low said, adding that the pub is projected to do much better financially this year.

“As always we’re trying to run the pub at zero,” he said. “It’s hard to tell because we do have those two months in we didn’t have before. But if things keep going as they do this year we’re looking to have a cash flow at net zero.”

Low said the society hired local accounting firm GibsonTurnerMoore over the summer to oversee and maintain the society’s finances.

“As predominately engineering students, we don’t necessary have the professional expertise of accounting procedures, so we’re switching to a bookkeeper do our books, instead of the students,” he said, adding that the cost of the bookkeepers is split across the services. “It is a little bit of a burden onto each of the services, but we think it’s a manageable one and one that the pub can handle.

Clark Hall manager Mike Parravani, Sci ’10, said the pub is strictly enforcing its new operating procedures.

“With the idea of accountability, telling staff that if they screw up when they pour a drink or whatnot, it’s okay, but there’s certain things that you have to do to account for that loss, that waste or else it’s considered stealing,” he said. “There’s accountability we have with the cash in and outs, sort of what they did last year, the same type of systems, because we liked them, the staff liked them and it keeps an open-mind about the staff and the manager working together to make sure that the cash at the end of the day is all there.”

Parravani declined to comment on the pub’s previous problematic traditions and practices.

“I’d prefer not to get into the stuff that was kind of shady,” he said. “Clark Hall Pub closed three years ago and there’s been a lot of changes to alter and move past the things that have happened. … If we hinge on what happened three years ago, then we can’t move forward and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Parravani said the pub is turning its attention to Wednesday nights, whose numbers have tripled with the start of a weekly foosball league.

“People got used to going to other pubs, even after one year of closing. People had to get used to going to Clark again,” he said. “We have students from all different faculties coming in because they realize when they come in here and have a good time that it’s not just an engineering pub, it’s a pub for everybody.”

Parravani said the pub has been successful in re-establishing its place in the engineering tradition for future generations of alumni.

“We keep on saying that we pretty much brainwash the frosh, in saying that everything the Engineering Society does is just amazing and eventually you understand that,” he said. “Clark Hall pub itself may just be a bar. But, the amount of time, efforts and memories that all the students have it, be it engineering or be it other faculties, they’ll remember those forever. We don’t just serve beer, we serve fun and great times.”

Parravani said two new additions to Clark’s drink menu, Big Rock Lime and “Clark Brew” will be available on tap within the next month. Parravani said Clark’s “Turbo” pitcher, consisting of two-thirds Coors Light and one-third Smirnoff Ice, quickly developed a cult following after its introduction to the drink menu last October.

ComSoc president Spenser Heard said the three-year contract has proven to be a positive initiative for both societies.

“It was really a good push forward,” he said. “Commerce and EngSoc have never been closer—not that we [weren’t] before—but I think that this has brought us together and we now have this united business.”

Heard said he hopes the partnership between EngSoc and ComSoc will prove to be a precedent in interfaculty society relations.

“It’s a really positive thing. If you talk to the average commerce student, they may not know a ton about Clark, but they do have a positive feeling about our involvement with them. Especially being able to restart a student business that is successful and provides opportunities for students, I think we are super happy with that and we only want to grow that.”

—With files from Monica Heisey and Michael Woods

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