News Article

The Students’ Union is having to call time on its beloved B4 Bar.

B4 – as it’s affectionately known - has been the staple of many Aston students social life over the years, friendships and relationships that have, and will, last a lifetime have been made in the venue and it’s hosted some amazing nights. But over the last half decade, its fortunes have not been as rosy and the bar, its food offer and associated entertainments continue to lose money.

The SU is of course acutely aware of the bar’s importance in terms of student engagement and student experience for some of our students, but the reality is that one student night a month and a weekly social for 20 weeks of the year was not enough to save the bar as an all-week long operation. Over the summer months the SU, via the Trustee Board (that consists of your elected officers, university alumni, university representatives and external trustees) have taken the decision to close B4 Bar, acting as all Trustee Boards do, in the best interests of the organisation, taking into account the overall finances of the Union and the risk associated with continuing to run the bar. Sometimes the Trustee Board has to take tough decisions to ensure the Union can run and support its current and future members. The fact the bar is closing is no one’s fault, Birmingham has some of the best eating and drinking in the country and competition to run a decent bar has never been harder.

Aston Students’ Union Commercial Finances

Income Streams over the years

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

 2017-2018

Copy Shop

32

20

0

-33

-21

30

Shop

0

0

10

11

2

5

Bar & Catering

-57

-53

-78

-30

-51

-50

Lease to Franchises

109

102

69

47

20

5

Events

-

-32

-25

-29

-43

-21

Total Income

85

37

-24

-34

-93

-31

Summary chart of the SU commercial finances for the last six years. The Bar and Catering (and ENT’s) consistently loses the SU money. This year has actually been the least biggest loss for three years, losing £31,000 compared to £91,000 last year and £34,000 the year before.  If it wasn’t for the university agreeing to pay for final year dissertation printing this year (thus bringing the copy shop back to a surplus budget) the final figure would have been far worse.

The demise of the bar has been a hot topic of conversation at previous Union Councils and AGMs over the years. Most recently in December 2017, the previous officer team presented a paper to Union Council (UC1718.02.4b) providing transparency with regards to the historical and current financial implications of the bar. This paper made it quite clear, if things do not change, the bar will close. The University was approached, as the paper suggested, and even they recognised the bar had reached the end of its lifecycle.   Everyone has wanted it to be commercially viable, but there is a financial reality that we can no longer ignore; it has cost the SU around £50,000 per year for the last six years - and the Union simply cannot afford to soak up these losses. The Union has tried various tactics to reduce costs to save the bar in recent months, including reducing the opening hours and menu options, but these did not achieve the desired outcomes and we have now had to take the next logical step to cease regular Monday-Friday trading.  

The B4 Bar will hold some key fresher’s events and parties in September and can still be used as a place for student-led groups to hire and run events - supporting societies and sports clubs in their social activities; we are working on plans to make the Blue Room easier for groups to use throughout the week and Wednesday nights Sports Socials will continue to be a key part of sports clubs social events.

Looking towards the future and things will improve. The Union is certain that students’ social lives will be as good if not better and once the new building opens in spring 2019 things will improve further. The SU will build and create a new eating and drinking experience based in the heart of campus, with something for everyone, in the best surroundings and facilities – feedback from our members tell us these are critical factors and will ensure the new bar is a commercial success.

If you have any questions, please email to our Chief Executive Max Mcloughlin - m.mcloughlin@aston.ac.uk

 

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