A Horse Walks Into The Bar

text by Omar Nür-Nathoo / image via Splitshare

At last month’s GA, BarCo’s Treasurer, Bob van Rugge, gallantly fended off criticism from across the assembled. Stern but straight he made the repeated assertion that tantamounted to, ‘BarCo is a business, and we make a profit.’ Whilst their €544 profit makes the latter half of this statement true, the surprising resignation of BarCo’s Inventory Manager, Usman Mahar, early this semester hints at a degree of dubiety upon the internal workings of BarCo.

Talking to the Boomerang, Mahar admitted that the trigger for his departure was the interplay between BarCo and the UCSA Board in the organisation of Equites’ Introweek party.

Disclosing a series of exchanges between the three parties, Mahar shows that Equites approached him- as BarCo Inventory Manager- in order to procure drinks for the party (including 17 litres of Bacardi Rum). As usual, he returned to Equites with the price- the selling price (the same price at which any student would purchase alcohol from the bar). This is where confusion ensued. Very recent precedent gave Equites- a closed, group independent of the UCSA- the impression that they were entitled to get drinks below cost price (which a long-held convention stipulates is available only to the UCSA for UCSA events). Furthermore, in documents obtained by The Boomerang, it appears in previous years Equites were given substantial discounts on alcohol procured by the UCSA Bar. In Fall 2012, not only had Equites been charged at cost, rather than selling, price, but the final price they paid excluded taxes and included a 10% discount.

Circumnavigating Mahar, Equites proceeded to contact BarCo’s CAO. So, obviously the UCSA Board stepped in a supported BarCo? Initially they did, taking on a suggestion by Mahar to give Equites drinks at cost price, on the condition that they pay the same fixed profit the Bar would otherwise make were they holding the party. This figure was set at €2500, but it was agreed by the UCSA Board and BarCo to lower it to €1750. However, it was thereafter discovered that these figures represented the average revenue- income generated prior to the deduction of expenditure- rather than profit. As such the figure was revised to a mere €400, which Equites have, as of this article’s publication, yet to pay. When paid, this deal would mean that Bar could have lost an estimated potential profit of almost €100. What is so staggeringly incomprehensible is that no UCSA-affiliated committee tends to receive such a favourable deal.

Accusing BarCo of flagrant financial mismanagement over the previous two years, Mahar nonetheless postulates that the cost of this has fallen upon the average student bar-goer. He points to the recent hike in the price of a large beer (which increased by a third last semester), as a prime example. Done so under the pretence that the cost price had increased, the former Inventory Manager revealed that a five-year deal between BarCo and their supplier- which runs out next year- fixes the price of drinks. However, BarCo have explained that this deal does not take into account inflation, the rise of which has underpinned the aforementioned price increase.

It is also worth mentioning that this €400 will enable BarCo to record a profit for the night. Despite this, delving into the history of BarCo’s financial health one realises something rather alarming: the bar has, for the past two years, been running at a loss, which is automatically absorbed by the UCSA. Yes, BarCo did make a profit (for the UCSA) last year, though the figure- in the mere hundreds- is relatively small in comparison to the tens of thousands the Bar used to make annually. Contrariwise to what Van Rugge opined at the Budget GA, BarCo have since made patently clear to The Boomerang that this is irrelevant. Whilst BarCo can make a profit for the UCSA, they themselves are not a business in the sense of being profit-driven. The primary concern is to ensure that BarCo recovers the planned expenses, thereby breaking even.

Equites’ party was unusual in that no other organisation takes over the stocking and running of the Bar for a night. While anyone can rent the Bar for a night, few exercise such influence over it and the degree to which Equites did so is what makes this so contentious. There is neither malice nor animosity, but it is clear that rules, albeit unwritten ones, have not been upheld.

In a joint statement, the UCSA Board and BarCo admitted as much, though maintained that all codified rules in the Policy Manual and Statutes were abided by. Expressing the complexity of the situation, the decision-making process was made more strenuous by the geographical spread of individuals involved, leaving Facebook messages, emails and Skype calls the only way to communicate. This affair has, howbeit, lead to the reconstruction of the BarCo rental guidelines which, it is hoped, will clarify such contentions in the future.

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