A glimpse behind the curtain of the Bomber closure

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Kurt MacMillan, Feds Vice President of Operations and Finance (VPOF) clarified the Bomber’s situation at the Student Council meeting on Jan. 13.

“Yes, the Bomber is closed,” he said.

The Bombshelter Pub officially closed its doors Dec. 17, 2018 after five years of financial losses. MacMillan clarified that the decision followed many attempts to revive the pub, but it lost more money in the Fall 2018 term than expected.

“It was mainly the financial losses that we had, and then just the structure of the organization,” MacMillan said.

The financial losses amounted to around one million dollars over the course of five years.

If each of the thirty-thousand undergraduate students at UW today have been here for five years, each student would have lost $33 over that period.

In addition to financial losses, MacMillan stated that there were internal factors influenced the decision.

“It’s kind of confidential because there are HR matters involved,” he said in reference to why the student body was not consulted about the closure of the Bomber.

Seneca Velling, Chair of the board of directors, emphasized the need for confidentiality while handling the delicate situation.

“We have to maintain confidentiality because [the relationship between the Federation of Students (Feds) and the staff] is a contractual relationship,” he said. “We couldn’t go into specifics, obviously, because of human resource matters.”

Many students, even those in support of the Bomber closure, were upset with the way that the whole situation was handled, Velling said.

“Many students were disappointed with the way that the termination of employment of the staff was handled,” he said.

On Dec. 17, staff at the Bomber received an email two hours prior to an emergency meeting where they were informed of the closure. Those unable to make it received a follow-up email informing them of the situation.

MacMillan said that Feds was following all of the procedures set out by HR, and that the notice that was given to Bomber employees was adequate. The typical notice given to employees of termination of employment is two weeks.

“The week of the 17th was one full week and, even though they were the holidays, the first week of January was the second week [of the notice], so there were technically two weeks,” MacMillan said.

MacMillan explained to the Student Council that the reason Bomber employees were unaware of the closure until after the Bomber was closed for the term was to remove the risk of theft of product and money by employees.

“There’s the risk of running an operation with a lot of money and alcohol involved,” he said at the student council meeting. “If you know your last day is going to be at the end of the term, there’s a risk of potential theft of money, of product,” he said.

The employees, the Student Council, and the general student body were all informed at the same time. MacMillan stated that Feds did “as much consultations as [they] were supposed to throughout the entire process.”

“[It] was all discussed with the Board. There were discussions at the Student Council beforehand, councillors brought up the losses at Bomber,” he said. “We had conversations in council in regards to that, and I’m the one that made the full decision to start that process over again to make things better for the students.”

Velling stated that Feds consultations with the Student Council and the board occured in October and November of last year, in addition to guidance from an external consultant in Feb. 2018.

The board was presented a for information motion in November, informing them of the accelerated timeline of the Bomber closure. Velling explained that for information motions can be neither amended nor discussed.

“There wasn’t a decision the board could make,” he said. “Some directors called into question the authority of the VPOF to unilaterally make a decision like that, but [due to bylaws and procedures], we are pretty clear that this power was a power of the [VPOF] within the bylaws.”

Velling also said the board was not part of the decision at all, nor was it part of the communications related with the closure.

“The board did not make the decision to close the Bomber,” he said. “We weren’t involved in the communication of this, we weren’t involved in the closure.”

The students that had input in the decision were largely from the Math, Engineering, and Science faculties, Velling said.

The Math Caucus did a consultation on Reddit, a lot of university math students are on reddit,” he said. “And Engineering consulted and got back to us.”

Velling admitted the situation could have been handled better.

“I can’t speak to the handling or the communication of [the situation]. I think it’s something we can improve on in the future,” Velling said. “Considering 90 per cent of the people who work at the Bomber are part time students, and we’re a student organization that acts to help them, I think we definitely could have handled that better.”

“We have over 30,000 undergrads. Bomber is a piece of Feds and it does mean a lot to many students, yes,” MacMillan said.

MacMillan still has a positive outlook for the future, especially with the upcoming student consultations.

“I’m really excited for the future of, within a year, having a new concept restaurant in there that many more students are going to be wanting to go to,” he said. “I think we gotta [sic] start looking forward and looking at the positives that [are] going to come from the place.”

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