Alfie’s goes Underground
Campus nightclub rebrands in an attempt to pull out of deficit
The AMS is undertaking an overhaul of Alfie’s, renovating the 37-year-old nightclub and re-branding it as “The Underground,” the most recent attempt to address the club’s continuing financial losses.
The Journal was notified of the project early Monday afternoon by an AMS employee, who requested to remain anonymous.
The nightclub was previously named “The Underground” when it first opened in 1976, and changed to “Alfie’s” in 1979.
The upcoming overhaul was brought to AMS Board of Directors the weekend of June 7 and passed in closed session, in response to a steady decline in revenue and overall poor financial performance over the past six years.
The newly-redesigned club is set to open its doors for the first time on the week of Sept. 2, although the exact date has yet to be determined.
The original idea for the change was initiated by AMS hospitality and safety services director Justin Reekie in May, and was brought forward by The AMS Pub Services (TAPS) head manager Stephanie Johnson.
For the 2012-13 academic year, TAPS is projected to have run a $30,000 deficit, although the figure has yet to be audited. In February of last year, TAPS had a $67,000 deficit at that month’s end.
In 2011-12, the Journal reported that TAPS had a projected deficit of $90,000 coming out of the summer months.
Deficits incurred by Alfie’s are subsidized by the Queen’s Pub, which sees higher profits and is more consistently attended.
The project isn’t the first attempt to spark new life into the student-run club — last summer, team JDL spent upwards of $11,000 on new paint, furniture and lighting to attract more students and garner more revenue, giving the space a more “industrial look.”
The previous academic year, the AMS installed $7,650 worth of gates over the club’s bars to provide greater security of its inventory, following a theft.
In 2004, $27,000 was spent on giving Alfie’s velvety couches and chaise lounge chairs, in hopes of improving its revenue stream, following a $100,000 loss the year before.
Previously in 2001, the AMS undertook a $285,000 renovation to improve sales and attendance — increasing the club’s lighting and providing more space for students.
The Journal reported at that time that Alfie’s had been experiencing trouble drawing crowds, with the exception of Thursday nights, since the late 80s when it first began to lose profits.
According to Nicola Plummer, AMS vice-president of operations, the new renovations and re-branding would cost “less than $50,000,” a number she declined to specify given that it was passed in closed session.
“The financial performance of Alfie’s has been questioned by AMS Board of Directors for the past decade,” she said. “It was essentially wasting student dollars in its current form because it didn’t have a brand students were connecting to and a brand our management team could work with.”
Over the past 12 years, the AMS has spent upwards of $330,000 on renovations, excluding the most recent endeavour and funds used to balance its overarching deficits.
The most recent project will feature better lighting, increased booth space and student artwork, which will feature graffiti painted across the club’s walls inside.
“The context of it is that it wasn’t the most expensive capital expenditure we had this summer,” she said, adding the figure would be depreciated.
TAPS is projected to make up for the cost of the revamp through a projected increase in revenue brought on by higher attendance. She also said TAPS will increase prices for wine bottles from $14 to up to $16.
Students weren’t directly consulted for the project, Plummer added, but she said the AMS “[constantly] consults” students indirectly via attendance and revenue figures, which she said indicated students didn’t identify with the club.
She added any form of direct polling would have brought divided opinions, and isn’t common in corporate decision-making.
The name change comes as a result of concerns raised by students that the club negatively reflected on the memory of Alfie Pierce, Plummer said.
Pierce, widely considered to be a Queen’s legend, was the son of a runaway slave and became a celebrated figure for his contributions to Queen’s athletics.
“It’s also a much easier brand and name to work with than Alfie’s — you can do any kind of theme with The Underground,” she said. “I would say also because it’s a non-offensive name … it’s an honest name that reflects [the venue].”
This article was updated on July 30th at 10:45 a.m.