Campus pub to open with new management

Kevin Foote/File
The Bear’s Lair Pub, located on Lower Sproul Plaza, will open for one year under new management — a partnership of Bay Area business owners — on Thursday.

The Bear’s Lair Pub on campus will open under new management this week, about one year before the space will likely close as part of a broader renovation project for Lower Sproul Plaza.

At a meeting of the ASUC Store Operations Board last Thursday, board members said a partnership of Bay Area business owners — Ali and Jim Erakat and Feng Wang — will open up the pub on Aug. 25, just in time for the start of the new school year.

Though it is not yet clear what exact changes students can expect to see at the campus pub, ASUC President Vishalli Loomba — a voting member of the board — said in an email that the weekly tradition and widely popular “Beat the Clock” event will continue.

“They have a lot of experience, and we are very excited for them to get started,” Loomba said in the email. “They … are very open to working with us on more fun themed nights and events.”

The pub is placing a renewed emphasis on food offerings, most notably shown through the “Wing Fiesta” sign on display above the pub’s entrance.

Earlier this summer, the board decided to continue discussions with Cal Dining and local business owner Daryl Ross, who had made a presentation to the board in May regarding their proposal to operate the pub together.

However, once it became likely that construction in the plaza will be done in one phase instead of two — shortening the pub’s lease to about one year — those vendors backed out, according to Associate ASUC Auxiliary Director Tom Spivey.

Though it is not yet final whether the plaza renovations will actually be done in a single phase, outgoing Auxiliary director Nadesan Permaul said there is a “very good likelihood” that it will happen that way.

Additionally, the pub’s new operators will not be paying rent for the space, similar to the previous management, Jupiter Beverage LLC, which switched to a month-to-month lease  until June 30 after providing documentation at the February board meeting indicating that the pub had lost a large amount of money over the previous year and a half since the economic downturn. Rent for the space is priced at $4,637 per month.

According to Spivey, the rent has been forgone because the pub’s new management will be investing somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 in funds it would otherwise use to pay rent, though he said the pub will still pay other dues such as custodial and maintenance costs.

“They have to do capital improvements,” Spivey said. “They’re going to have to come in and clean it, change some fixtures, they’re probably going to take out the pizza oven and put in a fryer for their wing concept, so they’re going to have to invest some capital in the place for a very short return of sales.”

According to Spivey, the new lease will begin on Thursday and last through the end of next June. At that point, if the construction process necessitating the space’s closure has not yet begun, there may be an opportunity to collect rent from the pub on a month-to-month basis, he said.

Given the short duration of the lease, Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab said it was not likely that the board could have found a vendor willing to invest in capital improvements as well as monthly rent. She added that it is better to have the space occupied, providing a service to students, than to leave it empty.

When the pub does open its doors again on Thursday, it will be what Spivey referred to as a “soft opening.”

“It’s going to be just to get open and pour beer and have food,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge for them, but I think they can do it by Thursday.”

In May 2009, the board forgave The Daily Californian a portion of its rent for the office it leases. As a result of the agreement, a nonpolitical student member of the board, currently Hedy Chen, sits on The Daily Californian’s Board of Operations, which has no control over editorial content.

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.