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Business model changes in store for Pub

By Nicole Zhao     10/4/12 7:00pm

Its debt having doubled in the past year, the management of Willy's Pub is currently focusing efforts on creating a sustainable model of business, according to Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Student Center and Campus-wide Programs Boyd Beckwith. 

Beckwith said Pub is $28,000 in debt. Pub has until the end of the academic year to create a sustainable business model and not incur additional debt, Yoonjin Min, ex officio member of the board of directors of V & W Permits, Inc., said. A deadline for repayment of the $28,000 has not been set, according to Beckwith. 

Pub General Manager Jordan Rueter and Pub staff members declined to comment. 

Min, who is theStudent Association external vice president, said Pub was most profitable back when the drinking age in Texas was 18, prior to 1986. 

"Unfortunately, there's only a subset of students on campus who are over 21 and can buy beer [and] therein lies the problem," Min, a Jones College junior, said. "While they have other options, students don't seem to consider them as a place to get food or study. They also have to pay some rental fees, which means they have to make more than just the cost of their raw materials to be profitable."

Beckwith attributed the increase in Pub's debt from $14,000 in October 2011 to a number of factors including fewer rentals for events, such as college Pub nights; competition from Valhalla for beer sales; competition from The Hoot for late-night food sales; and increases in fixed costs, such as rent paid to the university and the administrative support fee paid to the Student Center. Beckwith said both the rent and administrative support fee have been discounted. The rent paid to the university includes the costs of utilities and custodial services. 

Beckwith said the Student Center does not have the financial resources to continue to cover Pub's losses. 

"[Last year,] we wanted to the give Pub a chance to improve its operations," Beckwith said. "However, financial projections made at the beginning of the semester indicated that Pub might incur an additional $10,000 in debt."

Beckwith said that in order to create a sustainable business model, Pub must not primarily rely on revenue from alcoholic beverages. 

"Pub needs to find additional ways to generate revenue," Beckwith said. "Pub cannot rely on selling a product that less than 25 percent of the undergraduate population can purchase. They are making great strides with their food operations; however, many in the Rice community still do not see Willy's as a place to get a meal."

Beckwith said V & W Permits, Inc. members and the Student Center are working with Pub to brainstorm options for a more profitable business model. 

"The Student Center is getting quotes to install a security gate around the bar area that could decrease Pub's personnel costs by allowing them to close during their less profitable hours," Beckwith said. "However, it would allow the space to still be used by the Rice community as a lounge, meeting or event space. However, this is just one option that is being considered."

Brown College sophomore Elena Rodriguez said she thinks Pub is important to the campus. 

"Even though it can be a drinking environment, it's not exactly like a party," Rodriguez said. "It's a good place to meet people, socialize and just relax after a long week of classes."

Wiess College junior Olyver Yau said many students do not know that Pub sells food and its location is more inconvenient than other vendors on campus. 

"I don't know much about Pub," Yau said. "I don't really feel like they ever talk about it. The Hoot is easy because it's in the servery, but you don't pass through Pub. You have to want to go there already."

Yau said he was not aware that Pub served options other than alcohol until he was a sophomore and suggested that Pub advertise that information during Orientation Week. 

"I feel like people don't really think of Pub having food and that's probably why nobody goes," Yau said. 

Rodriguez said Pub should encourage students to come study and work on group projects there. 

"I think it would be really good for [Pub] to try to find other ways to earn money because I'd hate to see it close down," Rodriguez said.


Pub General Manager Jordan Rueter and Pub staff members declined to comment. 

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