To Zoo or not to Zoo…
by Chris Hibbard
Feb. 13, 2008
To Zoo or not to Zoo…
At one point in time, our University lounge, The Zoo, was a weekly hot spot in town, attracting hundreds of drinkers and dancers every Thursday night. From what I understand, there were some fairly major incidents resulting from heavy intoxication, and it was decided between the University administration, the Student’s Union, and the Lethbridge Police Service that this was not such a good idea. Consequently, The Zoo stopped with the Thursday night dance club action. Which brings us to today.
When I go up to The Zoo now, I sometimes feel a little confused as to where exactly I am. Am I in a restaurant? A pub? A sports lounge? I really don’t know anymore what The Zoo is, or what it is trying to be. I presume that there is a whole dynamic business operation running up there, in which there may be logistic and/or staffing issues, but nonetheless: call me crazy, call me off-base, but here’s my logical thinking regarding our University lounge.
1. If The Zoo is a restaurant, I find that the food and the customer service are rather lacking in comparison to the menu prices. A clubhouse should have three pieces of bread, and an extra patty on your hamburger should not cost an extra $4 – half of what a single burger and fries does. On this same note, sometimes I enter The Zoo, only the sit and wait – and wait – and wait – and then give up and go up to the bar and order my drink and a menu.
2. If The Zoo is a pub that caters to University students, and if University students are like myself and enjoy a drink or two after ten p.m., then I think that The Zoo should remain open until at least 11:00 p.m. Going to The Zoo for a drink is currently just that – by the time you are halfway through a jug of beer, the pressure is on to finish up and go somewhere else where our money and patronage is appreciated. To truly be a pub, I think that The Zoo needs to at least stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights, and believe that it could be an excellent venue to see more live performances – such as the last few years’ Bedouin Soundclash, Tegan and Sara; heck even karaoke nights qualify I suppose.
3. If The Zoo is a sports lounge, the TVs should be tuned to sports constantly, with the sound turned up a little bit during the games themselves. As it is, I often find that drinking in my living room watching the Flames game tends to be a more satisfying experience, if only because I can hear the commentary, can serve myself without waiting, and know that even after the game is over, I can still have another beer.
These are just some of my thoughts. I know that the students who work at The Zoo are part-time help, with other things on their minds. I know that The Zoo is a business, with business concerns and budgets etc. I know that I like going to The Zoo, simply because of it’s location and the fact that it is the only place on campus to sit, relax, have a drink and watch TV. However, I also know that The Zoo operates at a loss some years, and likely should not need to. It’s one of the only on-campus lounges in Canada that you can walk into and find it nearly empty, check out the lounges at the U of C or Red Deer College, and you’ll find them packed 16 hours day – true ‘hangout’ places. Some of these places even allow students to bring their own lunches, so long as they pay for a pop or a coffee. As far as a business strategy goes, if you consider that it costs about a nickel to make a cup of coffee or an iced tea, which can then be sold for $1.50, that’s a pretty major profit percentage.
What I don’t know it what The Zoo thinks it is, what it aspires to be, and what it’s staff may or may not think about concerns such as these. Maybe someone can explain it to us? I sure would like to see the U of L have a cool, hip, hangout-place that actually gets busy.