The Owl Open for Operations
author: matt wincherauk | editor-in-chief
Time to get some beers in Riddell
This past summer saw the University of Regina’s campus pub, The Owl, undergo a two- month-long renovation in preparation for the upcoming school year. Students can expect a lot from their reworked bar, including new menus, seating, lighting, and a general change in atmosphere.
Opening just in time for Welcome Week, The Owl has undergone some aesthetic changes in anticipation for much larger changes to the overall bar. University of Regina Student’s Union (URSU) General Manager Carl Flis talked a length about the project, beginning with the revenue problems The Owl had been suffering for years.
“The Owl has been struggling for the last six years. Revenues are down probably 50 per cent from what they were five or six years ago. Clienteles are changing, and their preferences are changing. The days of filling a live room with 500 people, a live band and people drinking are gone,” Flis mentioned to the Carillon. We knew going forward long term we couldn’t continue to strictly depend on the student clientele. Part of this renovation and rebranding is that we’re going strong after the community clientele as well. The non-student customers, the faculty, the employees at ISM, that kind of market. So it was part aesthetics, part rebranding, part marketing initiative to bring up the revenues and cut the loss and bleeding that we’ve experienced for the past five years.”
The Owl underwent a lengthy renovation period over the summer that went past schedule and nearly caused the bar to miss the Welcome Week rush. Despite these issues, the bar opened up on time. Flis assured the Carillon that despite the pressure to make sure everything was open, The Owl is fully functional right now.
“[We] did close for the month of July, hoping to get most of our painting work done, but unfortunately we’re at the whim of a lot of contract workers and their schedules. So that dragged out and we basically had to close for July and August. It was a bit of a panic to get open for Welcome Week, but we’re functional right now.”
So what can you expect from The Owl once their many phases of renovations are finished? Well, you might not recognize The Owl once they’re done. With phase one finished, Flis mentioned a number of new additions, which include: new earth-toned paints, a new ceiling grid designed to absorb sound and prevent noise complaints, new tabletops and shades, a sound baffling area beneath the mezzanine, a new AV system with new televisions, a re-designed lounge area upstairs, renovated bathrooms, booth seating and light fixtures. In addition to these aesthetic additions, floor staff would be making a return, and training is currently going on.
That’s a lot of new stuff, and that’s just what URSU is focusing on for phase two. But don’t worry, Flis notes that The Owl shouldn’t have to close for these kinds of renovations, so you can still get your pub fix on campus.
“Phase two should happen on a project-by-project basis. It shouldn’t be something that we need to shut down for. For example, we’re looking to add new bench seating, but it won’t make us close the bar.”
While many of the phase two renovations won’t affect business, Flis did note that phase three could cause some issues. What will be a part of phase three? The relocation of the bar out into the open space of The Owl. This relocation would take some time, and would cause the bar to close down for a similar period to The Owl’s renovations from this past summer.
The changes don’t just stop at the look and feel of The Owl; students should look forward to a new menu that balances some of the old items that students love, and new stuff from the kitchen’s new sous chef. Flis notes that the changes they want to make won’t be cheap, but that “creativity comes with a cost sometimes, but we’re willing to make that investment. We hope to be a high-quality, moderate cost alternative to other food service options on campus.”
In addition to all of those changes to the atmosphere and aesthetic of The Owl, URSU introduced a new logo that has been on display since before the start of school. While Flis notes that they weren’t necessarily looking to rebrand The Owl, they were very happy with the logo provided by the Facilities Management Planning Department, and decided to add that to their plans. URSU is hoping to add more branding to the exterior of The Owl during their next phase of renovations.
Despite all the pressures and stress of the renovations and changes, Flis notes that The Owl staff are excited for the new opportunities and challenges that face them down the road.
“The feeling is great right now from staff, previous and new. There seems to be an excitement to work at The Owl. We have a great staff in place and they are all eager to embrace the change in what we’re doing,” Flis tells the Carillon. “Now it is our challenge from a marketing perspective to reach out into the community marketplace. Now that we think we finally have the room close to where it needs to be, we can focus on that.”
While many campus pubs across Canada have experienced similar struggles with revenue and staying relevant to students, Flis is hopeful that The Owl will find success with their changes, and provide a path for success.
“Speaking with counterparts across the country, there are only one or two university pubs that actually make money, so we’ve been struggling with the same challenges and issues. We’re not unique, but hopefully we’ll do it right here.”
The Owl is currently open for business in the Riddell Centre.