April 4, 2012

Pub Event Planning Proves Difficult for Student Organizers

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Although the first two pilot events in  the new on-campus pub in Willard Straight Hall attracted a large number of undergraduate and graduate students, some organizers for the most recent event, a concert on Thursday night, said that there may still be some issues to work out before the Bear’s Den officially opens in the fall.

Between 350 and 400 people attended Thursday night’s concert — a performance by Israeli pop star Ivri Lider — including undergraduates, graduate students and faculty and staff, according to Robert Callahan ’14, pub director of the Student Union Board. The space was filled to capacity for most of the night, Callahan said.

However, Yotam Arens ’12, one of the organizers of the event, said planning the concert “was a very difficult process” — which he attributed to the pub still being in the “preliminary stages” of its development.

“In terms of planning and working with the pub committee, because there were so many groups involved, there were issues of communication and it wasn’t always clear what the role of the staff from Cornell dining or the S.A. office or the pub committee was,” Arens said. “There is still a lot to be ironed out, in my opinion.”

Callahan said that the concert was the first event held in the pub with an outside organization — the Super Bowl party launch event was hosted by the Student Union Board — which may have contributed to these communication problems.

“Because there were seven or eight different parties [involved in the planning process], including co-sponsoring organizations, having a perfectly clear line of communication was hard to do,” Callahan said. “For example, one person from Cornell Dining would say one thing and the other person from CIPAC wouldn’t know exactly what they meant.”

Shelby Rokito ’15, another organizer of last week’s event, added that the acoustics of the room made it difficult at times for everyone at the concert to hear the performer.

Despite these issues, Callahan said he was happy with the test run for co-sponsorship of pub events and that he felt the concert ran as smoothly as all parties involved could have hoped for.

According to Callahan, the pub committee will work with Cornell University Maintenance to add new features to the space over the summer before the fall opening. He said these additions will include a dimmer switch for all of the lights in the space, and a stage, sound system and stage lights will be installed.

“It will be much more of a performance venue and less [of] a dining hall when we use it,” Callahan said. “It will still be the Ivy Room during the day, but once the [permanent] alcohol service begins it will be the Ivy Room and the Bear’s Den, and once the Ivy Room closes [for the night] it will just be the Bear’s Den.”

While organizers complained of disorganization in the planning prior to the event, they said they still enjoyed the performance.

“I felt a lot like I was in a coffee house, which was a perfect way to relax on a Thursday night,” Rokito said. “I really enjoyed the performance and the atmosphere.”

The concert was the second of three events that the pub will host this semester before the Bear’s Den officially opens in the fall. The pub committee originally planned to throw four pilot events this semester, but will now host only one more event at the end of April, according to Callahan.

“We have reduced it to [three events] because Cornell Catering did not have the manpower to do a fourth event before the study period began,” he said. “We all wish we could have done four events, but unfortunately it just wasn’t able to happen given our schedule and Cornell Dining’s schedule and Cornell Catering’s schedule.”

Callahan added that the committee has not yet determined what the final event of the semester will be.

“We are working to figure out the times specifically and what content we want to have,” he said.

The Bear’s Den has not officially opened because of a delay in obtaining a liquor license. The pub is able to serve liquor for its pilot events this semester because Cornell Catering has its own permit; they sold beer and wine on Thursday night, which was served at a makeshift bar composed of Ivy Room tables.

According to Student Assembly President Natalie Raps ’12, because the layout of the space is now finalized, the committee can begin to expedite the process of securing a liquor license.

“It’s a very tentative process as to when the final date for the license will be given, so until then we are on a program-by-program basis,” Raps said. “We are doing everything in our power to make sure [the pub] opens in the fall, fingers crossed.”

While the pub committee hopes to open the Bear’s Den by the start of next semester, it is now up to New York State to approve the liquor license.

“The plan is to open in the fall, however we don’t know the specifics because it’s up to the [New York State Liquor Authority],” Callahan said. “Obviously that’s a political process and it takes the amount of time that a political process would.”

The pilot events were chosen based on responses to an email sent out by the pub committee to all club officers at Cornell, according to CIPAC co-president Yotam Arens ’12, one of the concert organizers.

“We thought it would be great for us to put on a performance [in the Bear’s Den] because there’s so much excitement around the pub,” Arens said.

According to Raps, the first two events were attended by “a wide range of students,” in keeping with what she said the space was intended to do.

“It’s definitely going along with the vision that all students are invited and [that there is] diverse programming that is a substitute for other activities on campus,” Raps said. “Bringing together the Jewish and LGBT communities was really successful and really fun to be at.”

Callahan agreed that the goal of the pub is to bring different groups together on campus.

“Our purpose is to cater to undergraduate students because we’re funded by the undergraduate Student Assembly, but our mission is to promote a culture for people who are of age to drink to come hang out with people who are not of age,” Callahan said. “Going forward, we would like to work with the graduate S.A. to possibly get graduate funding as well.”

Original Author: Rachel Rabinowitz