At the end of this school year, Porter’s Pub’s lease is up, and the University Centers Advisory Board will start looking for a new tenant to take that space for next year. Porter’s Pub was central to campus culture for a large group of past and current students, especially considering the caliber of concerts it brought. At the same time, Porter’s customers complained that the establishment had a tendency to serve subpar food in an often empty restaurant on week nights. Clearly there was room for improvement, and we know UCAB will keep that in mind as it looks for a new tenant.
Hands down, the first priority is that the new business needs to serve alcohol in a casual setting. Zanzibar Cafe is a great spot to have a borderline-classy night with, at most, two glasses of a craft beer, but UCSD also needs a place to get more than a little tipsy and not care. Luckily, UCAB shares this priority, as the organization’s chair, Claire Maniti has indicated that the space will continue to be used as a pub that prioritizes both quality food and alcohol.
And there are plenty of directions to go with that idea. In fact, a pub much like Porter’s that served good burgers and which found ways to keep itself more regularly populated might just be perfect. One of the problems that UCAB had with Porter’s was the fact that it sold too much alcohol compared to food, and an Irish- or English-themed establishment could get great business, especially if it could outperform the relatively low standard of food set by dining halls.
There is also the potential of turning it into a student-run business (yes, a co-op), especially if the setting had some mass appeal. Students could obtain a liquor license and hire a kitchen staff to make food and clean dishes. The students themselves might have a better idea of what their peers would want out of a bar or grill than an outside business, and it would be a great experience for economics majors and budding entrepreneurs. Maniti agrees that this idea is certainly possible and that it could work in the right format.
Some students have proposed that a chain restaurant like Buffalo Wild Wings might be a smart alternative to a local business; after all, it would have more potential for popularity. But even though reliably OK food at cheap prices sounds enticing, the last thing that UCSD needs is to lose more of its already dwindling culture. A generic chain sports bar — or really another chain of any kind — would waste room on campus where UCSD could put in an establishment that students are actually proud of. One of the ways that Porter’s was a success was that it created an atmosphere with its own individual character, comparable to, but perhaps a little more tame than the C.H.E. Cafe.
The ultimate decisions about the space will be left up to UCAB this summer, although they have been known to consider student input when they get it. Even if students aren’t proactive enough to make their voices heard about the future pub on campus, it seems that UCAB’s interests align closely with what students should want. Hopefully we can trust them to make the best decision for everyone.