News

SU Venue scaled back after £160,000 loss

It emerged on Thursday that the on-campus venue ‘The Den’, run by The University of Nottingham Students’ Union will have a significant decrease in the services it provides to students. Cut-backs include a complete closing of the space during the day and a stop on all but pre-arranged events. The future of the space will now be decided by the ‘SU Big Review’ which is likely to compress operation further and present the possibility of closure.

The total loss for ‘The Den’ this year has been projected at £160,000. Combine this with an initial refurbishment cost of nearly £200,000, the second, more recent refurbishment cost of £73,000 and the subsequent yearly losses- then total sunk-costs easily reach £500,000.

The Union haven’t given up without a fight though, every conceivable method to kick-start the ‘white elephant’ within the bowels of the Portland Building has been tried and tested. From a season-ticket to a pizza parlor to the reupholstering of the seats, no stone was left unturned in the quest for a popular, and of course profitable, student night-spot.

Stewart Bailey, Finance and Commercial Services Officer released the following statement to Impact:

“Unfortunately the increased costs have not been matched by spending at the bar and this has led to significant losses. Whilst individual events may have been ‘successful’, it has not proven possible to buck the industry-wide decline in licensed trade and we have had to take the low level of spending as an indication that this type of club is not what students are demanding…The current level of loss is not sustainable and is preventing us from investing in other activities within the Students’ Union.”

With such a considerable amount of Union cash having been pumped into the failed venue, students will be asking why the Executive persisted with investment into the space despite previous heavy losses. In September of last year Impact printed an article questioning the repeated investment, only to have it pulled by the very Executive who may now ultimately close the facility.

Either way, University of Nottingham students have made their mind up about ‘The Den’, it’s now up to our newly elected 2010-2011 SU Executive to pick up the pieces.

James Sanderson

Editor-in-Chief

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46 Comments on this post.
  • anon
    19 March 2010 at 08:48
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    The Den/venue was never popular and will continue to lose money. The average student isn’t going to miss Ocean, Oceana, Crisis, EQ, Gatecrasher or even Trent SU club for a night at the The Den!

    What a complete waste of money on the Student Exec behalf. I wonder how many buses to Ocean (the de facto union club) the SU exec could of laid on ?

    Or perhaps invested in new a new website, enviornemtal initiatives or a lenton hopper bus? We have enough clubs on our doorstep and a good bar venue like Mooch.

    Also what does it say when the students newspaper can’t criticize the exec spending. No wonder why they are allowed to blow half a million and expect no backlash.

  • Scott Perkins
    19 March 2010 at 08:59
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    I said this two years ago, I will say it again. Cheap drinks are the only way to attract people to The Den. Not bloody spending £200,000 on refurbishment. Sadly ‘anon’ is right, this money could have been invested in vital services such as a new website or improved transport links.

    I hope there will be a full investigation to find out who is responsible over the years for wasting so much of student’s money on a new carpet and chairs. As reported in the article, nearly £500,000 of OUR money has been wasted. I want to know precisely why.

  • Michael
    19 March 2010 at 09:52
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    I think that a major, contributing problem was and is the negativity of us second and third years.

    I, when in first year, had already been told by many older students to avoid The Venue and I am sure that this happened again this year, despite the success in incorporating The Den in Fresher’s Week.

    Cheap drinks will of course make it far more popular, but the students letting freshers (who would be the primary punters) make their own mind up about a place, without it already being condemned from day one, would only help the situation.

  • Stewart Bailey
    19 March 2010 at 10:04
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    Hi all, thanks for taking the time to read this and to Impact for running the article.
    You can read the full press release at http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/news/article/11779/1675/

    I thought I’d come back to you on a few points, these are my opinions and not necessarily those of the Exec or Board of Directors.

    >> nearly £500,000 of OUR money has been wasted.
    The Union’s Commercial Services sit within a commercial company, at year any profits it makes are donated to the Union. Funds are never transferred the other way so none of ‘OUR’ money has actually been wasted, only profits transferred are reduced.
    I’d also point out the benefit that the refurbishments have had, hundreds of events have been held in the Venue/Den since it was redeveloped, so I don’t think it a complete waste. That said I do agree the facility does not justify the current losses.

    >> what does it say when the students newspaper can’t criticize the exec spending
    We really have been trying to provide the student body with a decent venue. This year a number of improvements were made based on feedback and we thought we could make it work. To have run an article in the first Impact of the year criticising the Den (incidentally much of the article was completely inaccurate) would have only tarnished its reputation from the start, and undermined all our efforts to provide a popular on-campus club.

    >> I will say it again. Cheap drinks are the only way to attract people to The Den.
    We really cut prices in the Den with various drink deals, for instance Jagerbombs and beers at £1.50. The welfare of students is of paramount importance to the Union and we have a number of contractual / policy / licensing conditions that limit our minimum pricing. The club EQ tried using price as its unique selling point yet I’ve heard that within four months of opening last year it had to be bailed out.

    We need student input into where to go from here, could I encourage you all to complete the SU’s Big Review by Sunday at http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/review and please do send any specific thoughts or feedback to me at [email protected].

  • anoni
    19 March 2010 at 10:06
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    This is actually a very thorough vindication for Impact, given that they were censored from publishing a critique of the the new club this several months ago.

    The whole idea of the ‘rebranding’ seems to have been completely misplaced. The problem with the Den/Venue was not one of brand; it was the high cost of drinks relatively to venues in the city. Because that wasn’t solved the brand and imagery didn’t make a difference at all.

  • David
    19 March 2010 at 10:06
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    What surprises me a little is the lack of imagination in the things that The Den actually hosts, with one major thing I think that’s been lacking is live music.

    The number of bands that come through Nottingham is amazing, and the number of bands that do Uni tours but then miss Nottingham out is also pretty high. I realise that there are both Rock City and Rescue Rooms which obviously draw a lot of the bands that might come here, but I can’t believe it’s never even been tried at this point.

    For a Uni with a population of some 30,000 to not have a live music venue, given the massive success of them elsewhere, is a bit of a shock, especially given the way the Summer Party is championed as a great thing (both on campus and elsewhere) – it suggests to me there should be a culture of live music on campus that just doesn’t seem to exist.

    Given the queue for the tickets at New Theater recently to get in to the free show to see whichever random no-name indie band it was, it feels like a trick is certainly being missed somewhere.

    That said, this may be somewhat naive as I don’t quite know how easy these things would be…

  • John B
    19 March 2010 at 10:28
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    Guys…with the thousands of students in Lenton and on Jubilee, why not start again and build a decent union on Triumph Road!?

    Blank slate.

    University Estates already seem set on turning the road into University Park II…haven’t they already bought the premises of Dairy Crest and a few other businesses in the past year!?

    Think about it – No residents…loads of space…and we could have a purpose built SU/Venue space to rival Trent.

    Even ‘The Worm’ could just dive on a Hopper Bus to get there!?

    I know Nottingham always wants to be seen as a ‘purely academic’ University but why not have an open space for students and societies to exhibit/perform/meet and work. Which…we could double up as a venue on a Saturday night!?

    Does that not get anyone’s juices gushing?!

  • Scott Perkins
    19 March 2010 at 10:39
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    Stewart, I think you have deliberately misled people on here with your comments:

    -With your point about the ‘OUR’ money statement, you finish by saying any profits for UNUS at the end of the year are donated to the Union. Therefore, the money that could have been pumped back into the union through safe avenues, was instead spent on a risky enterprise redevelopment that has, so far, failed on a (in my opinion) monumental scale. Although it’s not technically our money, it could have been.

    -(incidentally much of the article was completely inaccurate)
    I would beg to differ. Only one or two points were contentious. What I would like to know is if these ‘inaccurate’ statements were eliminated from the article, would the SU still have pulled it? Because from your tone the main worry of the SU was the general content of the article. Is it right to pull an article on the basis that it would hurt profits?

    Apologies for the questioning, this is one subject that I am passionate about. By having an open forum for the students on here, perhaps next years Exec can understand what needs to happen to The Den.
    More redevelopment? Cheap drinks? Better events? Or just closing down? Tell next’s years Exec here, they will be reading!

  • bob
    19 March 2010 at 11:18
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    Pulling an article because it could hurt the reputation of the Den is a shocking excuse to censor Nottingham student magazine.
    Do we stop reviews of New Theatre plays now because they might stop being going to see the plays?
    I am frankly appauled at the censorship that the Union was allowed to get away with here.

  • Stewart Bailey
    19 March 2010 at 11:30
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    Hi Scott,

    >> Stewart, I think you have deliberately misled people on here with your comments:
    Wow, I couldn’t disagree more, when I released this press release I invited all the media SRSs, or indeed any student, to contact me for any further information, my intention, to be as transparent as possible over this issue.

    >> With your point about the ‘OUR’ money statement, you finish by saying any profits for UNUS at the end of the year are donated to the Union.
    It has been implied that Union funding was being spent on the Den, and I think it important to distinguish between the Union’s central funding and its commercial operations. I have come across cases of other Unions being in just such situations, with their block grant being used to subsidise their commercial operations. We have not ‘spent’ Union money on the running of the bars; we have taken risks within the company, just as we have to do across all our commercial services. That said, you’re quite right that the donation could have been higher if the Den had not made losses and the reason we’re taking this action now is because its forecasted cost is too high, and this is reducing the donation that we could make to the Union (albeit offset to an extent by strong results in other commercials).

    >> Only one or two points were contentious. eliminated from the article, would the SU still have pulled it?
    From my memory of this article much of it was inaccurate and we weren’t given the time or opportunity to confirm figures or details or work through the issues with you.

    >> More redevelopment? Cheap drinks? Better events? Or just closing down? Tell next’s years Exec here, they will be reading!
    We don’t know yet, this is why I am asking for feedback and input. We are going to have to make the strategic decisions before the new Board of Directors (note not the Exec) are in office.

    >> Apologies for the questioning, this is one subject that I am passionate about.
    Absolutely, so am I. I really welcome an open forum on this, and I will check back here whenever I get a chance.

    Hi Bob,
    >> Pulling an article because it could hurt the reputation of the Den is a shocking excuse to censor Nottingham student magazine.
    As the publishers of Impact the Students’ Union has a duty to oversee it, particularly in the area of libel. Now whilst the company wouldn’t sue the Union, why should there be double-standards? That said I don’t want to get into the editorial freedom debate as it’s not my remit, please get in touch with David Hind [email protected] if you want to know more on that.

    Again, these comments are my own and I am not speaking on behalf of the Board of Exec.

  • Stewart Bailey
    19 March 2010 at 11:36
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    In other news I wish I could fix typos retrospectively, that last sentence should read ‘Board or Exec’.

  • Luke Place
    19 March 2010 at 13:55
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    As a member of staff of the SU I should probably also point out that these are my opinions, not those of the SU.

    The Students’ Union as an organization is always looking for possible sources of income and collecting even a fraction of the money spent in clubs on a weekly basis would have boosted its income immensely. Whilst many would say this has always been an impossible task, it’s worth pointing out that similar feats have been achieved at other universities, many of which have strong competition from other clubs in local towns/cities.

    The money spent initially on refurbishing The Ark (200k?) was, though excessive, justified in some respects by the fact that The Ark was a bit of a state. The subsequent expenditure was likely an (admittedly fairly futile) attempt to establish a long-term reputation that would secure reliable income streams for years. As has been pointed out, however, 2nd and 3rd years were always going to perpetuate negative perceptions of The Den and as such, building a different reputation was too big a task.

    It’s easy to blame previous officers of our SU, but the simple fact of the matter is that evaluating the likely success of any service that had replaced The Ark was going to be difficult for a group of students with little or no business experience. The introduction of External Trustees this year might well provide a silver lining to this particular cloud, since it seems likely that our SU will gain expertise it has previously been lacking and will be less likely to throw so much money at projects with limited prospects of success.

  • Bruno
    19 March 2010 at 14:21
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    The Den presents itself as a nightclub that tries to rival the likes of Ocean, Oceana and the rest. There are so many reasons why a ‘standard’ night at the Den could never work. A massive part of why The Venue/Den has failed to be successful over the last 3 years is that the space is fundamentally flawed for what it is aspiring to be.
    I’ll list just some of the factors…

    The Den is too small to achieve a ‘critical mass’ of people in it – people don’t go to The Den because there is usually no one in The Den. At the same time but not interesting and cosy enough to be a ‘niche’ bar/club like Snug has.
    The ceiling is too low on the right hand side. The décor on the right hand side of The Den is flat and uninspiring and on the left, it’s far too much like Mooch. I can’t think of a single reason why The Den would be better as a nightclub than any of the clubs in town. Apart from location, but that’s not even true for the majority of Notts Uni students, who are in Lenton.

    The Den tried to appeal to Nottingham Uni students 6 nights a week. No club could or should ever try and get the same specific group of people to go there 6 nights a week. Think of any club in Nottingham and it will almost certainly only have a maximum of 2 nights a week targeted at Nottingham University students. The thought of Ocean/Oceana/CR-ISIS opening their doors to Nottingham University students 6 nights a week is laughable.

    By not making it clear which night is THE night at The Den, people don’t know which night to go on and so never go there. If The Den has concentrated all their efforts on one night per week (Tuesday would have been an obvious choice) then they could have achieved the critical mass of people going there. By only being a club night once a week, it would not have the reputation of being a club night that nobody goes to.

    There have been times when The Den has been a success, such as for one off events like Notts Got Talent and Gee Whizz. I put this down to the events like Notts Got Talent being unique compared with anything in town and Gee Whiz catering for a group who wanted a CHANGE from a standard club night. Also, because Gee Whiz is a monthly event, it is more of a special occasion – I’m not sure that it would work so well as a weekly night.

    Finally, I was somewhat interested by the news that a pizza hatch had been installed in The Den at the start of 2009-10. I have been in The Den dozens of times at almost all hours of the day and night and I have never seen anyone either serving pizza or eating pizza there. None of my friends have ever seen this either. Has anyone?

  • Paul
    19 March 2010 at 14:53
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    I’ve not been there much since the first few weeks in September/October but if I remember correctly the regular nights were Tuesday (RnB), Thursday (Comedy/Binglo/random stuff), Friday (with different music to Ocean) and Saturday (Flirt). The decision to not do much on Mondays and Wednesdays was a deliberate one, I expect.

  • Close to Impact
    19 March 2010 at 15:08
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    @Stewart Bailey

    >>The Union’s Commercial Services sit within a commercial company, at year any profits it makes are donated to the Union. Funds are never transferred the other way so none of ‘OUR’ money has actually been wasted, only profits transferred are reduced.

    This is of no real consequence, whether the money is within the commercial company or not, it is still money which could have been used in other areas within the Union- if it had been invested wisely. In this respect, it could have been our money had it not been invested into the disgrace that is The Den.

    >>To have run an article in the first Impact of the year criticising the Den (incidentally much of the article was completely inaccurate) would have only tarnished its reputation from the start, and undermined all our efforts to provide a popular on-campus club.

    I think you have made a mistake here, one can easily deduct from this that the motivation for pulling the article was because you were worried about the effect it could have on The Den’s patronage (which is absolutely nothing to do with the exec and falls within the editorial remit of Impact). In other words, you tried to stop an article, which had several damning and verified (by people too close to yourself to mention) accusations just because you didn’t want to see The Den go under. It seems that you were prepared to do anything you could to justify the hideous amount of money (which, of course, could have gone to other areas within the Union) spent on the place. I find this disgusting.

    In short, you used the guise of libel to prevent the embarrassing revelations within the article from emerging. If anyone is interested in what the article contained then take a look at this:

    – The SU Exec seriously considered hiring rent-a-crowd to bolster numbers at The Den
    – The SUFSO only released figures on the renovation of the venue after Impact attempted to go to print with the article, in the article itself Impact estimated that between £50,000 and £80,000 of Union money was invested. In turns out that £73,000 was the actual figure. The union accused Impact of having inaccurate figures.

    >>From my memory of this article much of it was inaccurate and we weren’t given the time or opportunity to confirm figures or details or work through the issues with you.

    Impact had the correct figures, the executive stopped the article just to save face on ‘Rent-a-crowd’. You cannot stop an article from going to print because you need to confirm figures or to “work through the issues”. You had absolutely no right to do this as you can only stop print for libel. How ridiculous is it that the exec can stop articles holding themselves to account. Students should be up in arms about this.

    I suggest you cease your arguments as I know that the vast majority of Nottingham students can see straight through your bullshit…

    >>As the publishers of Impact the Students’ Union has a duty to oversee it, particularly in the area of libel. Now whilst the company wouldn’t sue the Union, why should there be double-standards? That said I don’t want to get into the editorial freedom debate as it’s not my remit, please get in touch with David Hind [email protected] if you want to know more on that.

    Again further proof that you were just trying to cover your back, you are right, the company would never sue the union, but it’s a very convenient excuse for you to pull the article isn’t it Mr Bailey. It isn’t double standards, it’s you realising that your reputation is on the line and doing everything possible to make it a success even if that means calling verified accusations ‘libellous’.

    In summary, I’m glad you’ve accepted that the place is a failure. If only you’d listened before, or were you too busy fucking around with a Pizza oven?

  • Stewart Bailey
    19 March 2010 at 16:29
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    Hi ‘Close to Impact’

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with a lot of what you’re saying, and I am certain that some of your information is wrong, however I don’t see how helpful it would be to respond point-by-point. Instead, be aware that I am held accountable by Students’ Union Council, by all means please present your arguments there http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/about/council/ .

    Everyone else,

    We’d really value your thoughts on the Den and where we should go with it, thanks to those of you who have already posted feedback on here. It would be great if you could also send them to the Board of Directors of the company; myself ([email protected]), Claire ([email protected]), Rob ([email protected]) and Dan ([email protected]) we will be sure to discuss them at our next meeting.

    And of course, the SU’s Big Review http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/survey , closes Sunday.

    Again, these are my opinions, not necessarily those of the Exec/Board.

  • I want to know…
    19 March 2010 at 17:00
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    @Stu Bailey “I am certain that some of your information is wrong”

    No normal students go to SU Council. Asking someone to send you a private email so you can send them a private reply is a cop out.

    The SU exec claims that it wants to be accountable to the students.

    Tell us here, now, exactly which parts of the information that “Close to Impact” has are wrong and what the real details are.

  • Suki
    19 March 2010 at 17:02
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    I think this is a good decision by the Exec/Board. They have realised that in the current climate there is not the sufficient or sustainable demand for this service and have therefore cut the Unions losses. I would rather see this temporary closure and restructuring, than see union finances eroded into a irreversible parlous state.

    The majority of the Exec candidates in last years elections ran on the manifesto pledge that they would try and sort the failing Venue. Rob and Stu – who you guys as students elected on these pledges – have obviously tried their best to make it work. Knowing them both personally they are neither stupid or ignorant and really want to provide the best student experience possible. There is no way that any of the Exec would blindly continue with this venture just to save face or their reputation. If you think that then you are plainly an idiot.

    Articles slating the Den before it had the chance to be successful would have been counter productive on its reputation, therefore not giving the service offered the chance to engage with the 1st year students that it is aimed at. I think the Exec were justified in pulling the article. The claims that were put forth in the aforementioned article were either unfounded, inaccurate, or unsubstantiated, and therefore would have been detrimental to the potential success of the Den. Maybe the journalist who wrote the article should have been far more proactive in their research and investigation of the issue, gaining the real, quantifiable facts before writing such an article. Then pulling the article would not have been necessary.

    Maybe if you have any worthwhile suggestions or feedback that could make a real difference you should approach someone in the know and actually try and push for some positive change, im sure it would be far more productive than moaning on here. Better still maybe you should run for FSO or President next year if you have all the answers?

    Jog On

  • Pissing Away Money
    19 March 2010 at 17:03
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    I am dissapointed at today’s news. I was hoping for the place to close completley. When will the SU learn that an attempt at a mainstream club will not work? The ceiling is too low, the staff are too miserable and the drinks are too expensive.
    The desperation of some nights (with the exception of Gee Whizz) has been telling. I was wondering when the desperation turned into finding alternative activities such as bingo.
    End the bloody club and give the money up for something more useful. Kids in Africa are starving and your pissing money away on a salary for a club manager who ‘revolutionised’ another SU bar down south. I think people have had just enough lies from SU people. I want one of them coming down from their ivory tower and confessing that the Den was a mistake.

  • Daniel Cooper
    19 March 2010 at 18:38
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    We should at least congratulate the Exec and past Exec for attempting to rescue The Den/Ark/Venue. Their lack of trying can hardly be criticised.

    However, the bottom line is that the The Den, like Pioneer Travel, is unviable.

    It is much cheaper to drink in one of the numerous hall bars. The Den can hardly compete with the likes of Ocean and Oceana. Mooch provides all my drinking/eating/pub quiz related needs.

    Imagine where the money the Den is currently haemorrhaging could be redeployed.

  • Luke Place
    19 March 2010 at 18:52
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    @Pissing Away Money

    It’s worth noting that the Exec took up their roles last summer, by which stage most of the decisions about changes to The Den had already been decided.

  • bob
    19 March 2010 at 19:03
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    whoever designed the layout of the den needs to be shot

  • Old Ents Co-ordinator
    19 March 2010 at 19:11
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    Hi everyone,

    This is quite an interesting one. I used to be an events and promotions co-ordinator for the Venue, and some of the events were generally really well attended, for example funny farm, the hypnotist and the guy who can swallow stuff and then regurgitate it (Stevie Starr, youtube him). This year I’ve been to a couple of these events, and some society events for example Notts Got Talent and last year’s musicality shows, which have been great. Where would these events take place without the Den?

    The club nights there really aren’t my thing, but I can understand why they thought it might work. The Ark used to be extremely popular on Fridays and Saturdays, and I think The Den still would be if there wasn’t the partition between Mooch.

    At the end of the day the Exec (last year) made the decision to try to salvage the Den. It obviously hasn’t worked and a lot of money has been seemingly wasted. However, I don’t know why everyone is getting quite as upset as they are – the Union is one of the richest in the country thanks to generous University donations, a good advertising department and impressive profits from other services. The Exec this year are doing a good thing by undertaking this review, seeking out our views on what we want. Hopefully this will give them a better idea of where to spend the money.

  • Ben Cave
    20 March 2010 at 15:22
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    the concentration on the den as a venue for clubbing I think is completely unproductive. It only functions in this capacity when you have a trapped market such as rag-raiders.

    The fact of the matter is that the den cannot, will not and should not compete with clubs in town. It has strengths which it could exploit which this focus does not help.

    Personally, I would like to see the den in the future concentrate on three things. Firstly, the space should be remodelled as soon as such finances become available (appreciating that this may take some time), into an event friendly space. This would involve relatively minor changes (such as a better stage and more tables and performance friendly lights) but would have durable results. It was raised at the recent presidential debate that the Den has been inundated with booking requests by societies. As someone closely involved with societies I can fully understand why. The uni is short on informal or semi-formal spaces where societies can hold events, let alone with the ability to cater as well. Nights like this make the den steady money as any guaranteed attendance would.

    The second is to put in place a management protocol at the Den to support this. I have heard frequent examples of double-booking and uncooperative management at the Den. This is not even necessarily their fault but it highlights that the Den should function in a way more consistent with a hospitality company. This means being informed and able to outline to societies and others looking to use the space their catering and entertainment options. If there were an advisor who could sit down with society execs and outline drink and food options available to their groups, not only do you guarantee revenue generating times (ensuring you only pay staff for time spent serving productive numbers of customers), it also provides the Den with a conduit through which to sell its strengths to prospective customer bases. It only takes one good event with a society to ensure that they will be coming back again.

    The final piece of this is encouraging that when ‘nights’ take place at the Den, they are different. A clubbing experience designed to compete with larger, better placed clubs in town is never going to attract a critical mass of students to make it popular. However, nights like Gee Whizz and the Mad Hatters Tea Party provide students with something different , a reason to choose the Den over other options. To make club nights reasonable the team needs to shift focus away from simply a space in which people can drink and dance into more structures and unique experiences, this is how they can style themselves as completely distinct from club and bar nights in town.

    Sorry to ramble on at such length, just thought I would share my ideas.

  • Lucy Hayes
    21 March 2010 at 14:16
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    @ Ben Cave: “ensuring you only pay staff for time spent serving productive numbers of customers”

    I agree with most of your suggestions – but the above comment seems overly harsh! It’s not the staff’s fault that they have no customers. Do you genuinely propose that if someone has worked a 6 hour shift but not served a ‘productive number of customers’ they shouldn’t be paid?!

  • Ben Cave
    21 March 2010 at 18:25
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    Oh no certainly nothing like that. It was not aimed at staff I was simply suggesting that if the union needed to make budget cuts in the den. Only having staff on when there will be enough customers to justify the return seems like a decent way of doing it. It certainly isnt the staffs fault nor should they work without pay but for the union to cut back on the staff hours when the den has very few customers might save some much needed cash.

  • Old Unioner
    21 March 2010 at 21:14
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    As someone who was involved with the transition from Ark to Venue/Den, and fondly remembers Friday and Saturday nights at the Ark, I’d like to briefly chip in here.

    Two things:

    1) I’m disgusted at the tone of several commenters. I’m unsure as to the source of your vitriol but it can’t be healthy. What do you think happens in Portland? People sitting there smoking cigars and deciding whether to wipe their arse with a £20 or a £50?

    Our Union has robust and responsible financial management. If you’d take the time to have a look through the accounts and read the annual report, you would realise this. You may be interested to note that another local Students’ Union are currently in deep financial turmoil, and not for the first time. There are rumours of a “zero spending” policy throughout the organisation.

    2) Consider this:
    You are slating the Den for being a failure.
    You are also slating the Exec for “censoring” an article in Impact which was very critical of the Den at a crucial time of year, and would have almost certainly increased the risk of failure. That, sir, makes no sense.

    Oh.

    And 3). Impact’s grant is, I believe, in the region of £30k p/a. What revenue does it generate?

  • Me.
    21 March 2010 at 23:53
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    Interesting that my comment that was slightly anti-impact hasn’t been put up. I wonder if this will make it.

  • Anon
    22 March 2010 at 02:53
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    @Old Unioner

    Every SRS/Society recieves grants from the union in some shape or form without necessarily generating any financial return, were you somehow trying to suggest that becuase Impact does not make any money then it should be disbanded? Do you therefore think that all of the other socieites that ‘cost’ the union money should be shut down? As it happens impact provide an important service and outlet for issues like this to be discussed… the fact that this very discussion is going on shows the importance that impact play in the Union’s communication with its members.

    The fact is the £160 000 that has been wasted on the Den should have been pumped in improving services like impact. I have heard stories of the opening night of the venue after it had the £200 000 refurbishment in 2007, and there was no one there then, I am not too sure why the Union ever thought it would get any better.

    I have thought the managment in the Den to be awful this year, and I fully understand that the money spent on the Den this year was not a decision made by the current SU exec.

    I am all for it being used as a performance space for societies. The best nights I have seen there have been Moonlighters, Musicality, Nottingham’s got talent and the performance that the theatre put on in there the other week. So get the SU to spend some money on something which is benificial to the students… not just some silly failing club nights, it is not ocean and it will never be able to rival the popularity of the clubs in town!

  • Anon
    22 March 2010 at 03:08
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    @Old Unioner Also… surely if our Union “has robust and responsible financial management” then this situation where nearly !half a million pounds! has been pumped in a failing club should not have occured. And just becuase compared to other Unions we may be financially better off it does not in any way make it more acceptable for money to be chucked away just becuase it is there to be chucked away…

  • Alex
    22 March 2010 at 10:35
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    Old Unioner, for your information pre-recession Impact was making a profit for the SU in the order of several thousand pounds a year. The combination of a downturn in advertising in the last two years and ineffective SU marketing staff has meant this is currently not the case.

  • jubilee acolyte
    22 March 2010 at 13:47
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    Further to David’s post and a couple of other comments, let me say this: As a live music venue for the University, The Den did and does not stand a cat’s chance in hell on the terms it appears it was envisioned.

    Nottingham Uni students have since time immemorial used nightclubs and venues in town as the space available on campus is not set up for large student club nights, gigs and clubbing in general. The culture is deeply embedded. The University has the hall bars and consequently you haven’t got the one big student venue that a lot of unis have. Furthermore the uni is on a campus which is well out of the town centre so such a space has zero appeal to non students.

    Why would any promoter put on a band at the Den over one of the venues in town (Social, Trent Uni, Rescue Rooms etc)? Nottingham students will go into town for something they like, it’s much harder (if not impossible) to get significant numbers of people (Trent students, locals, people from further afield) to travel the other way. And if you’re going to restrict things to just Nottingham students then putting on regular successful touring bands there is a complete non-starter.

    Additionally, putting on a night at say, The Social immediately plugs you into the network of contacts and support for promotion that the Rock City umbrella can offer plus the sound engineering etc is always to a pro standard. There is a good reason why all the big venues in town fall under this umbrella and a £200k refit was not ever going to touch the sides in terms of competing with these venues. The venues in Nottingham that operate independently of Rock City et al (The Maze, The Central) do so on a small budget and by identifying niches in which they can operate. It should also be noted that 2 of these businesses have failed in the last year (The Running Horse and Junktion 7 which has the dubious of failing twice in a year), and none of them is making significant money at the moment.

    So the Den from a live music POV was never going to attract a regular stream of touring bands by pulling them away from the city centre venues. If it was being set up more along independent venue lines, then I think that’s a great idea for the uni to have such a space, but that you’ll be waiting a looooong time to get your £200k back.

    As a night club type venue, I think it stands/stood more of a chance, but not by much. It doesn’t have the size to act as a realistic alternative to the big, existing club nights in town. If you want to put more specialist nights on – different types of music etc, then fine but again you return to the problem you’ve got with the live music situation – why would a promoter restrict him or herself to the Nottingham student market when he/she can promote in town, still attract this market and a much wider market besides?

    I think some terrible decisions have been made with the best of intentions. I would suggest as a starting point for taking things forward, thinking long and hard about what the venue is going to do, who is going to put events on, who is going to come and what sort of income that might realistically attract. This is the core problem with the business model that must first be addressed.

  • jubilee acolyte
    22 March 2010 at 15:33
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    Oh and one other point I would be interested to see clarified. Stewart Bailey, could I ask the following:

    When the Den’s manager’s job was advertised the salary was really good – just over £25k PA if memory serves (a big salary for such a job in the current climate IMO).

    With these developments to the place, what’s going on with the manager? Is the company still on the hook for £25k+ salary for a venue that’s only open for pre-arranged events?

  • Stewart Bailey
    22 March 2010 at 17:49
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    >> The fact is the £160 000 that has been wasted on the Den should have been pumped in improving services like impact.
    I do feel the need to highlight that financial accounting is a lot more complicated than some on here seem to realise. Construction costs are depreciated over a number of years; to have closed the Den at the start of this year would have meant taking all these costs in one hit. Instead, by operating the bar these costs are paid (as with rent, services etc which we’d have had to pay anyway) on a monthly basis. Thus by adding them together you’re actually double-accounting some of the costs. As a side point had we closed it I think we’d have faced just as much criticism back then for not making every effort with the Den and it wouldn’t have provided the useful service that it has this year.

    >> “has robust and responsible financial management” then this situation where nearly !half a million pounds! has been pumped in a failing club should not have occured.
    All business decisions include an element of risk; with Mooch, the Venue and the Den calculated risks were taken. Unfortunately in the case of the Venue/Den this has not paid off. Believe me when I say that these decisions are taken seriously, assisted by professional advice and/or student feedback where appropriate and by the officers elected to make them by the student body.

    >> the tone of several commenters
    I actually really appreciate the author for making this point. Along with Union Council, Impact should hold the actions of the Union to account and I welcome the forum this website provides for comments and questions from students. I was elected into my role by popular vote, as the best candidate for the position, I work hard and carry out the job to the best of my abilities. To throw abuse and unfounded accusations my way is completely out of line and does nothing to help the Union move forward.

    >> The combination of a downturn in advertising in the last two years and ineffective SU marketing staff has meant this is currently not the case.
    Impact hasn’t broken even/made a surplus in a number of years (2004/05 according to my notes). I think it down to many more factors that the effectiveness of our marketing staff, who bring in a significant income for the Union generally and a number of student groups directly.

    >> When the Den’s manager’s job
    I’m afraid that it is not appropriate to discuss HR details on a public website.

    Thanks to all who have posted useful input on this article, I’ve previously posted all of the Directors’ e-mails if you would like to mail your thoughts to us. Again, the above are my opinions not necessarily those of the Board / Exec.

  • Claire Game
    24 March 2010 at 12:00
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    Hi All

    As the Activities Officer at the SU the future of society events currently held in the Den is a particular area of concern for me. I have noted a number of comments in the above feed but if, (as Stu mentioned earlier) you could send these across in an email to me; [email protected] it would be hugely appreciated.
    Such events are integral to the running of many of our societies (Musicality, Blowsoc, SIN, this year the Womens Network etc.) and as such will need a venue to continue functioning. Whether you think the Den should continue to offer this service or can make suggestions as to other viable options on / off campus for students to use free of charge all input would be valued.

    Thank you in advance.

    Like Stu the above details my indivudal thoughts not necessarily those of the Board / Exec.

  • Jo Charles
    25 March 2010 at 16:30
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    If the journalists who write for Impact feel they should have total freedom to write whatever they wish in this magazine then they should look no further than who pays its bills. The University.

    And who runs The Den? The University.

    Yes, The Den isn’t going to be many people’s first choice, but it is a different entity to The Venue, so publishing an article, libellous or not, that could have damaged its potential for success so early in this new nightclub’s infancy entirely justifies the actions of the SU and University in witholding this original article.

    The editors of Impact are thus suffering from severe delusions of grandeur if they feel they can claim hegemony over the entirity of the magzine’s content.

  • Jo Charles
    25 March 2010 at 16:33
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    … just to add, I am completely pro-Impact, I think it offers the students of Nottingham an excellent service and provides clever and witty comment on many interesting issues. I am not suggesting its funding should be cut in any way.

  • jubilee acolyte
    26 March 2010 at 10:48
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    @ Jo Charles

    Yes, IMO it’s impossible for Impact to coherently argue that the article should’ve been published at the time because of students’ right to know when it’s universally agreed that the failure of The Den was not ultimately in the students’ best interest.

    That’s the crux of this issue and frankly the argument about libel is neither here not there. Even if the article was not libellous at all, the article should not have run. Yes, the students have a right to know and there’s obviously a point in time when it’s appropriate for such things to come into the public domain. But at the start of the year whose interests did this article actually serve? Clearly not the Union’s or the University’s. Clearly not the students’ as at that point in time the failure of the Den (while perhaps probable) was not a foregone conclusion.

    Clearly the decisions of the Exec etc should be scrutinised and at this stage a post-mortem is clearly appropriate. ‘Post’ of course, being the operative word.

  • Dave Jackson
    26 March 2010 at 13:48
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    If concern for Students’ Union commercial strategy is a higher priority for Impact than informing students (I’m not sure of the constitutional obligations there), then the two of you make total sense.

    I just think you’ll find a fair few students who think it’s wrong for Impact to hold back truthful information because it could potentially embarrass the Union or the University.

  • jubilee acolyte
    26 March 2010 at 15:16
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    @ Dave Jackson

    No. The point is you ‘hold back truthful information’ not because it may be embarrassing but because ultimately witholding that information, at least until later in the year, is in the students’ best interest.

    If you want effective commercial services (which everyone seems to agree is in the students’ interest), then you need to allow the decision makers to make strategic decisions for those services and allow those decisions to be implemented and things run their course.

    No-one (that I can see at least) is suggesting that there isn’t room for Impact to criticise the decisions, and reveal any damning information at some point in the year, especially if those decisions are proven to be bad, as they have in this case.

    The question is, should Impact be able to criticise these strategic decisions on a pre-emptive basis if it is deemed that doing so may have negative consequences for the business?

    My view is that doing so is not in the best interests of the students. Yes, they have a right to know – at some point in time – about the decisions that were made, especially if the business failed as it has done. However if Impact deems its role in all this to act in the best interests of the students then I fail to see how publication of this early in the year serves this remit.

    Who, other than a couple of journalists who score themselves a scoop, benefits here? The strategic decisions that matter have been made long ago and cannot be altered. Telling the students in October that ‘your SU f***ed up, and as a result this business is going to fail’ only makes life harder for the business, which in turn costs the students even more.

    Informing students about decisions at this time of year, when the strategy has had a chance to bed in and the students have had an opportunity to vote with their wallets, is much more reasonable. After all, irrespective of the opinions of Impact, it is the students who are the ultimate arbiter of success or failure via their spending.

    My only criticism of Impact is that I think they should have waited and given the place more of a chance before condemning it. It’s worth remembering, in the context of this discussion, that whatever replaces The Den in the future is going to have to overcome a slew of negative publicity from existing students, and it almost certainly will not have the funds available to transform it into something unrecognisable from the current facility.

    If the business struggles, students lose out. We might criticise some of the Exec’s bad decisions and mock some of their ludicrous ideas (rent-a-crowd is laughable), but personally I think intentions were good – they sincerely wanted to provide a good nightclub that would serve students and turn a profit.

    By that same standard, can Impact honestly say, hand on heart, that it also had the students best interests at heart? My feeling is no.

  • Dave Jackson
    26 March 2010 at 16:21
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    Hold up one second jubilee acolyte, you’re saying that while students have a right to know information, it is in the interest of students not to be informed of it until a certain point at which it becomes in their best interests.

    Who decides what time this is? Speaking of which, who decides what is in the student body’s best interest? You? Me? I happen to have a lot of faith in my fellow students to effectively process information and make their own informed decisions – it is certainly patronising to argue that somebody else (by what you’re saying, you) should decide just when it is in peoples’ ‘best interest’ to be given information which, by your own admission, they have a right to know!

    There are a lot of people, in media and beyond, who think that people should be told the truth as soon as possible, and be trusted to make the right decisions on their own. Since you clearly lack such faith in your peers, perhaps they would not see you as an adequate judge of their best interests.

  • anon
    26 March 2010 at 17:25
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    jubilee acolyte who should decide when certain information is in best interest of the students ?

    The Student Union executive? if so, why are they better qualified to judge on what I should or should not know? I agree with Dave Jackson and find this simply patronising.

    We have elected the Exec to take made decisions on our behalf. Not to dictate the limit of information given to us, certainly not information which helps scrutinise the Exec. If this information was known before the Student Union election, the issue over what to do with the Den may of been at the for front of the debate. Instead we allowed a fantastical Lenton hopper bus dominate once again.

    So while the Den continues to suck up the financial resources, we have a Student Union President mandated to splash more cash on a bus and no ideas discussed on resolving the Den.

    Great, good job. Definitely served the interests of the students well.

  • jubilee acolyte
    26 March 2010 at 17:36
    Leave a Reply

    @ Dave Jackson

    The notion you put forward that I am somehow appointing myself as a decision maker is a complete straw man. The Union elects its decision makers, so far as I was aware this was/is a forum and being elected to a position of authority/power was not a prerequisite for forming and stating an opinion.

    So who decides? The Union Exec, on a case-by-case basis, which is held accountable through Union Council etc.

    And there are many areas in the media where “the truth” (if that even ever exists in the context of an editorial) is not reported in the best public interest. And the executive that makes that decision is held accountable through the legislature and judiciary. There are also loads of examples where things are embargoed for a certain amount of time before being reported.

    To argue, as you appear to be doing, for the absolute freedom of the press is to argue for Jon Venables’ identity to be revealed, to argue that military secrets contrary to the security of troops ought to be published. If that’s your view, fair enough, but it isn’t one I share.

  • Dave Jackson
    9 April 2010 at 15:13
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    Wow, I had totally forgotten about this argument – apologies for not responding.

    There are extents to which freedom of the press exists. Do I think that absolute freedom of the press is necessary? Probably not, because there are stories upon which peoples’ lives can often depend, and I have often been one to rail at the fact that in some criminal cases parties are often named before the trial even takes place, essentially ruining their reputations regardless of the result.

    However, to place the principle of a critique of an SU business venture on the same level as divulging security information is, in my opinion, not appropriate.

    The Union elects its decision makers, but we already have our constitutional responsibilities, none of which state that the preservation of Union commercial interests are sufficient reason to censor what we publish. You state that the Exec is held democratically accountable by the SU Council – well so are we, through our constitution. (Just to clarify, I am arguing on the principle of censorship now, not the specific pulling of the article on the Den).

    I challenge you to find me any mandate, anywhere in SU literature, that states that Exec members have the authority to declare what is in the overall best interests of students on campus, and censor our media SRSes accordingly. If you can find that, then I will happily cede my position.

  • SB Sheep
    10 April 2010 at 00:51
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    I’ve only just read this article and haven’t had time to read all the comments yet but:

    Its rather funny to me that the Den is announced as closing in the same month as the SB Bar has to move its Funny Farm to our bigger venue because of massive turnouts!
    Our bar was refurbed in 2008 and since then has gone from a little used room to a really good venue with lots of events and big turn outs.

    Maybe UP and the SU could learn something from SB and the Guild on this issue?!!

  • brunoalbutt
    11 April 2010 at 16:55
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    Whether you’re a first year (hall bars) or a 2nd year upwards, there is almost certainly a place to drink and socialise much closer to your residence than The Den.

    I’ve only been to SB once but could it be that the bar is so successful because you have much more of a captive audience?

    However, I am interested, what is it about the SB Bar that has made it so successful and could things learned there be applied to The Den?

    – Especially considering that we already have a successful SU bar in Mooch, (as well as all the hall bars).

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