Despite a costly rebrand, the Underground isn’t faring as well as expected financially, according to AMS Vice-President (Operations) Nicola Plummer.
Plummer said the recently-renovated nightclub is projected to run a deficit comparable to what was projected last year for Alfie’s. The rebranding was designed to improve the nightclub’s finances.
Plummer told the Journal that The Underground, formerly known as Alfie’s Nightclub, has seen sales similar to last year’s, and will be reviewing their operations throughout the year.
She said the nightclub has done especially poorly during the last two years, as it covered its expenses in previous years.
“I wouldn’t say profitable … but we broke even, things were fine,” Plummer, Comm ’13, said.
The Journal reported this summer that TAPS was projected to have a $30,000 deficit in the 2012-13 academic year, although figures that have yet to be audited.
Audited revenue numbers from the 2012-13 school year will be released next week, along with unaudited numbers from the last two months.
Plummer said theme nights, such as Throwback, have continued to be profitable, while Wednesday club nights and Monday karaoke nights have been less successful.
“It’s been hit or miss with the karaoke nights. Some nights are really popular, some aren’t,” she said.
Turnout likely corresponds with workloads for students, she said.
Wednesday nights are also “question marks”, according to Plummer, since AMS marketing research found most students don’t go out on Wednesdays.
“Tuesday night is a really busy night, and not many students want to go out twice in a row,” she said.
Nothing has changed over the last two years in terms of daily operations, she said, and the renovation has improved the aesthetics of the Underground.
“If anything, the nightclub downstairs is better … it’s a cooler space to be in,” she said.
Plummer said the AMS will be conducting marketing research and collecting data to find out what students want out of a nightclub experience.
“What I want to focus on is which nights are the most popular,” she said.
The AMS marketing office is currently developing surveys for students, she said, which will focus on patrons of The Underground and Queen’s Pub.
“We know anecdotally, but we really need to collect data and find out,” she said.
She said the TAPS teams also will be having conversations with patrons to find out whether the services met their expectations.
The space has never been hugely profitable, according to Plummer.
“I think Alfie’s has oscillated around zero. Some years it’s super popular, sometimes it’s not,” she said.
She added that the profitability of the nightclub doesn’t necessarily reflect its popularity among students.
“Maybe one year Alfie’s doesn’t do so well, but that doesn’t mean students aren’t going, sometimes the expenses side just wasn’t managed very well,” she said.
The perception of large line-ups at the Underground may also hurt it financially, she said, because it’s a complaint she hears frequently. “We haven’t hit capacity on Wednesday for a while now,” Plummer said. “It’s a left-over from two years ago when that was the case.” However, she said she believes it’s still worthwhile to have a campus nightclub and pub service, even if it’s not always profitable.
“I think it’s important to lobby and advocate for always having a safe place on campus for drinking,” she said. The future of the nightclub may depend on how well students receive the Underground brand, she said.
“A brand takes a while to build,” she said. “Maybe students’ tastes will change and it will become popular to be on campus again next year.”
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