TAPS finances looking upwards

Pub services are $16,000 less in the red than budgeted

TAPS Head Manager Christine Wheatley said TAPS has focused on improving its service.
TAPS Head Manager Christine Wheatley said TAPS has focused on improving its service.

The aMs Pub services (TaPs) may be more than $48,000 in the red, but it’s $16,000 ahead of the proposed budget for the year.

“Everybody’s focused on the fact that this is the year that TaPs is finally going to come within sights of breaking even,” said Ian Black, AMS vice-president (operations). “We’ve seen a steady move towards
profitability and if that continues, then next year we should be profitable.”

After a few years of growth, TaPs is finally emerging as a successful service, said Christine Wheatley, TaPs head manager. “I think some changes needed to be made, and I think we’re on our way to being a much more efficient service than we used to be, which is something that we’re really proud of,” she said.

Alfie’s closed in January 2004 after having lost almost $100,000 the previous semester. It opened only for special events throughout the semester. The 2004-05 aMs executive team combined the anagement of alfie’s and the Queen’s Pub (QP) to create TaPs, and alfie’s re-opened in September 2004, after a $27,000 renovation. until this year, they were open on Friday nights and for special events only.

Wheatley said opening alfie’s on Wednesday nights this year has proven to be a huge success.

“We’ve kept booking out for events as well, and we’re booked pretty solidly every night of the week,” she said, adding that they don’t aim to make a profit at those events. “Our goal is really to make the space available to students … without taking too big of a hit ourselves,” she said. Wheatley said TaPs has been working on improving service at the QP. “I think that was a stigma of TaPs, that the service you were going to get at the QP was not going to be good, or was going to be slow,” she said. “We’re now scheduling a lot more people in the kitchen, for example, on lunches and dinner rushes.”

There are also now more servers working at night, and new draft lines were installed at the bar to make it easier for bartenders to serve customers.

The increased popularity of the QP on saturday nights has also helped contribute to TaPs’s comparable financial success. “[Saturdays] used to be a fairly slow night for us, and we now have people coming out to watch the hockey game,” Wheatley said. “It’s a really different crowd than we’re used to seeing.
“In the summer we did a whole thing for the World Cup and I think a lot of sports fans came out to that, so hopefully that tied our name a bit to sports fans.”

As a result of the increasing business at both the QP and alfie’s, Wheatley said TaPs is hiring more staff. “We have more servers working, people working in the kitchen, [and] stuCons as well,” she said. “We actually are, as a service, providing a lot more money for student workers as well. We put $31,000 more into students’ pockets this year just in our goal to improve service.”

Although there are no official records of the numbers of patrons, Wheatley said there has been a significant increase over previous years.

Black said the only way the services keep track of numbers is through revenues. “The StuCons do a count every night and for their own purposes they have that information, but that’s not something we
bring into the TaPs budgeting picture,” he said. “so we will look at TaPs numbers from previous years and if revenues have gone up, we know what our price levels are so we can take from that information whether we have more people in the bar.”

Black added that even anecdotal evidence, such as the size of the line-up at alfie’s, helps affirm the bar’s popularity. He said alfie’s appeal lies in its identity as a bar on campus that doesn’t charge cover,
and TaPs has built upon marketing this reputation in recent years. Black added that since its makeover in 2004, Alfie’s has finally reached its age of maturity.

“I think now we’ve had a full crop of students go through their university career with Alfie’s and now it’s become part of Queen’s life again,” he said. “Having a lot of clubs and a lot of groups book out Alfie’s is helpful as well, because that exposes more students to the venue and to the great idea of
having a fun venue on campus. “In the case of the QP, the management team has done a great job in promoting the saturdays; that’s really taken off for them this year. They’ve also done a great job of consistently marketing the QP and letting students know that it’s an option. I think more and more we’ve seen good crowds at the QP and students enjoying the atmosphere there.”

Wheatley said she couldn’t tell if the all-ages access program in place contributed significantly to TaPs revenues for the year, but said the program has been useful for holding events.

“It’s pretty great that we hold events like the Last Lecture on earth [at Alfie’s] and just being open saturdays and sunday nights [at the QP], giving younger students the opportunity to come to have the experience in a really safe environment,” she said.
“We do see a steady flow of underagers coming for their meals on sunday nights.” Black said the past few years have been a transition period for TaPs as it moves towards acting like a professionally run bar, a move which will be complete when TaPs holds its own liquor license sometime in the near future.

Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services, currently holds the liquor license for Queen’s, which includes the QP, alfie’s, Clark Hall Pub and The Grad Club. However, Griffiths said he hopes to issue separate licenses to TaPs, Clark and The Grad Club in september 2007.

“The big idea is to give each pub a level of autonomy, in terms of, if they’re doing everything right, they won’t get their license revoked,” he said.

—With files from Florence Li

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