Campus Life aims to revive struggling campus Pub

“Pub Night Wednesdays” may soon become a thing of the past. Business at The Marchese Blue Light Pub (the Pub) has been slow over the past few years. Since its opening in 1998, the Pub has been a stomping ground for students looking for a drink or a quick snack on weeknights. It has been in its current location above the Spa in Cotter Union for the past 11 years and is managed by the College’s dining service, Bon Appetit. 

Nick Martin `20 noted the lack of foot traffic at the Pub this year compared to his past experience at the College. He theorizes that the sparse business stems from a change in demographics at the Alfond Senior Apartments.

“Sports team don’t really live together in the apartments anymore. This makes it harder for teams to coordinate times for pub gatherings and parties,” Martin said. He added that this year during his regular Wednesdays outings he has observed that the attendees were made up of smaller friend groups rather than full teams. 

Dave Berle `20 identified another reason for the slow nights at the Pub.

“The downtown apartments have expanded the social scene at Colby, so people have additional physical spaces to hangout.”

The newly constructed Main Street Commons have also drawn away many upperclassmen students who are the clientele base for the pub. 

The Pub also has to compete with the existing party scene at the College where alcohol is easily available and cheap. 

“I think that there is a prevalent culture of low-cost beer and alcohol consumption [at Colby], where one drink may only cost 50 cents,” Ethan VanderWilden `20 said. “When you hear that a beer at the pub might be $3.50 (which, comparative to most other bars is very reasonable) it seems too expensive.” 

The situation has been further exacerbated by recent strife between staff at the pub with members of Campus Life and Dining Services over the future of the Pub. There have been discussions on how to reincorporate the Pub back into campus culture amid revenue concerns and renovation plans.

The Pub has not generated a net profit over a considerable period, according to Director of Campus Life Jess Manno.

However, the bartenders at the Pub have expressed concern and feel like they are left in the dark about any plans. One of those bartenders is Sheryl Jason, who has worked at the pub for 21 years. In an interview with the Echo, Jason said that when she returned to work this September there was little conversation informing the staff of the ongoing changes. 

In an interview with the Echo, Manno outlined renovations plans for the Pub. She explained that there is currently a commission from campus life working with Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer Doug Terp to redesign the Pub space into one that is reflective and welcoming to the entire diverse student body at Colby. This process is divided into three phases over three years. 

Phase one, which was completed over the summer, included a fresh coat of paint for the walls, new ceiling tiles, and lighting. Manno said that she hopes the new white walls will help open up the floorplan and make the space less dark and ominous.

Additionally, a glass pane was added to wall-in the balcony previously connecting the pub to the Bobby Silberman lounge in an attempt to create a buffer for sound when there are concurrent events. 

Phase two of the renovations is scheduled to occur throughout the 2019-2020 school year and includes plans to add new TVs. The current photos and decorations will be swapped out for an athletic-theme mural and a 360 degree photograph of Miller Library taken via drone. Manno said the commission wants to remove the sports-bar aesthetic the pub currently emits.  

Phase three, which is more long-term, includes removing the glass door between the bar and pool tables to create one continuous room and modernizing the area with new seating so students can potentially use the Pub as a study space during the day. 

So far, the renovations have yielded mixed reviews.

Martin raved about the new pool and air-hockey tables, while other students like Bennett Allen `20 lamented that the removal of the women’s rugby and ultimate frisbee trophies make the pub feel “sterile.” 

Jason also revealed frustrating interactions with leadership at Bon Appetit over missing pub decor that was removed without notice, including a bell that was a Pub staple for over 21 years. 

When asked for their opinion on how to reinvigorate the Pub back into campus culture, there was no shortage of ideas. Colby seniors wanted more events like Trivia Night. Campus Life is looking for clubs and departments willing to co-host Trivia Nights for a more regular lineup. Manno also expressed interest in finding ways to incorporate students not of drinking age into pub-related events with identifying wristbands. 

Some are concerned that the new modifications will forever alter the pub so many have known and loved. Colby alumna Morgan Lingar `13 fondly recounted, “the most unique thing about the Pub was that despite the name and the shockingly strong mixed drinks, we went there for the community, which is really quintessentially Colby. I hope the class of 2020, assisted by the newly of age members of the class of 2021, can recapture that version of the Pub.”