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Willy's Pub in debt, may close by January

By Tina Ou     9/19/12 7:00pm


Willy's Pub is approximately $40,000 in debt and could face closure by January, according to a Pub staff member who agreed to speak with the Thresher on the condition of anonymity. A manager divulged this information to Pub staff at a staff meeting, the source said. 

The amount owed by the student-run undergraduate business has escalated since last year, according to Boyd Beckwith, assistant dean of students and director of student center and campus-wide programs. 

According to an official statement from Willy's Pub General Manager Jordan Rueter, as a student-run business, Willy's Pub's operations have been complicated by costs implemented by the administration. These costs range from an $8,000 annual Student Center Administration fee to $120 for changing light bulbs, Rueter, a Martel College senior, said. 

"Recent changes, including larger lunch sales and adjusted profit margins, have helped us make major strides in increasing our profitability from last year and grow as a business," Rueter said. "However, the current university attitude toward these prohibitive costs makes it hard to imagine that a three-decade old staple of Rice culture will be around for future students to enjoy."

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said Willy's Pub is expected to repay the funds they owe the Student Center. 

"It is the case that they [Pub] have a substantial deficit and their business model has not been sustainable," Hutchinson said. "I don't have a date [regarding when the pub may close], but if they are not able to sustain themselves, Pub cannot survive."

The anonymous staff member who said that Willy's Pub may face closure by January said that the pub operated with a profit last semester. 

"We have a model that is sustainable and profitable," the staff member said. "The amount being charged by administration is unreasonable, especially for an undergraduate business on a campus where a majority of students are not even 21."

Beckwith said that Willy's Pub is working with V and W Permits, Inc., of which he is currently the president, to find a solution to their financial issues. V and W Permits, Inc. provides corporate supervision for the two on-campus pubs and was created on June 29, 1990, when it became illegal for individuals or the university to hold an alcohol license, Beckwith said. 'V and W' stands for Valhalla and Willy's Pub, according to Beckwith. 

"I can clarify that [Willy's Pub] is not closing down at the end of the month," Beckwith said. 

The board of V and W Permits, Inc. will be meeting to discuss Willy's Pub's financial issues and the future of the pub on Sept. 25, according to Beckwith. In the case that Willy's Pub may close down, V and W Permits, Inc. would make the final decision through a vote, Beckwith said. The voting members of the board consists of the General Manager of Willy's Pub, a representative of Valhalla's managers, the board treasurer, an alumnus board member, and the board secretary. According to Beckwith, the president votes in the case of a tie.

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