Alfie’s gets $285K overhaul

A photo of a photo of the original Alfie.
A photo of a photo of the original Alfie.
Construction worker Dan Frizzel works to implement the AMS vision for Alfie’s. One of the first things to go was the name and logo: Alfie’s Pub is just Alfie’s now.
Construction worker Dan Frizzel works to implement the AMS vision for Alfie’s. One of the first things to go was the name and logo: Alfie’s Pub is just Alfie’s now.

Alfie’s is getting a makeover for its 25th birthday.

Not visible from University Avenue, a major $285,000 renovation is underway this summer as the AMS tries to turn a round the unprofitable underground bar, as well as its image.

The first change name of the bar itself. Alfies’s Pub has been pared down to simply Alfie’s in an attempt to remake the bar’s image to match it’s newly renovated interior.

Gone as well will be the infamous murky atmosphere, to be replaced with three distinct sections of ambient lighting to create more of a club atmosphere.

"A cleaner and classier environment" awaits returning students, said Kim Baldwin, AMS Director of Services.

Alfie’s, named after the son of an escaped slave who broke through the colour barrier to become the University’s mascot after the Second World War, has seen much better days since opening in 1976.

The bar, which was a cash cow in the 1980s, has declined in popularity in recent years.

Though the bar is a hot spot on Thursday nights, it has trouble drawing crowds on other nights, resulting in large losses over the past half-decade.

Last year the bar lost more than $25, 000, but the AMS is determined to improve the bar.

"We’ve changed the logo, but kept Alfie’s," said Alfie’s manger Pat Travers.

"It’s a valuable campus tradition that represents something important."

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Jory Platt said an Alfie’s renewal is one of his top priorities.

Upon assuming office in the spring, he assembled ‘Team Alfie’s,’ a group including Baldwin and Travers, among others, to undertake a comprehensive review of the bar’s operations.

The first step was a survey open to all students soliciting suggestions. Remarkably, over 1,200 students participated, a huge number that Travers compares to sample sizes used by polling firms to determine opinions for 30 million Canadians.

"This was a very positive result," said Travers. "It shows that [students] care. Now we can turn around and give them what they want."

And what Queen’s students want, said Travers, is a wide range of experiences.

To give students what they want, Alfie’s will offer a number of ‘branded’ nights beyond Thursday, including live music every Tuesday and rave-inspired dance on Saturdays.

In addition, the renovated bar will feature areas designed to accommodate different tastes, such as new seating areas.

"I’d be willing to go on a night other than Thursday if they offered something distinct," said Marc Weiner, Comm ’04.

But Travers feels popularity alone cannot be the measure of success for a student-run service with a different mandate than other Kingston bars.

"We choose to keep Alfie’s accessible, by selling drinks cheaper," said Travers.

Travers said maintaining a safe environment is a priority in drawing students to Alfie’s, citing the fact that only two fights occurred in Alfie’s last year, a number he said is much larger downtown.

“Being a place that’s comfortable and friendly for everyone might be why the crowd is 60-70 per cent girls," Travers said.

The renovations, paid for by an $285,000 allocation from the AMS budget, are the first step in a long-term vision, according to Platt.

The plan forecasts Alfie’s will return to profitability within three to five years.

With renovations proceeding on schedule, the redesigned bar will be ready to host Frosh Week warmup events before its grand reopening the second week of September.

"I know Alfie’s will work," said Baldwin.

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