Filling That Empty Space

The University of Calgary has put up some unnecessary red tape around the newly renovated That Empty Space by not renewing their liquor licence.

The venue can survive without alcohol, of course, but the seemingly arbitrary nature of the university’s decision is disconcerting. U of C administration is in charge of all liquor policy, which affects That Empty Space even though the space is a Students’ Union-run venue like The Den and MacEwan Hall. Who knew simply moving down a set of stairs would create so much bureaucratic hassle?

The SU has not run into any problems regarding liquor in the Space before, so a poor track record can’t be U of C administration’s excuse for banning alcohol. The decision not to renew the licence creates more work for both sides and an element of distrust between the U of C and students where there is no cause. It’s an unnecessary stance on behalf of the university.

It does seem strange that the SU wouldn’t have applied for the licence earlier– just in case snags like this occurred. They’ve known the space would be moving for the past year so it’s unfortunate that the liquor aspect was put off until the last minute. Also, the SU went ahead with the design for That Empty Space– which includes a bar– before obtaining confirmation regarding the liquor licence. True, the bar can be used for serving non-alcoholic drinks but it was clearly meant to fulfill the same role as the mobile bar in the old location.

A lack of liquor at That Empty Space is regrettable but students would still use it for its primary function– showcasing local music talent in an intimate setting for a low cost. This, however, is also under threat. The SU has changed its concert schedule from every week to once a month this year. This decision is solely that of the SU– a choice made independent of university administration and seemingly independent of the students who attended concerts at the Space.

Students’ Union president Lauren Webber said that because concerts in the Space are only once a month, the SU will be able to bring in bigger bands to play. What made That Empty Space so charming, however, was never the status of bands– it was how the concerts exposed students to new and local music. (The cheap price was an excellent bonus.) Some bands were a hit and some were a miss but it didn’t matter because was always something different. It makes sense that the university would have a venue of this character, supporting bands off the beaten path with sounds nonconducive to the mainstream, instead of booking acts solely by popularity.

Why mess with a good thing? There are no justified concerns to prevent liquor from being served in the space and there were no concerns with the type and frequency of bands that played either. Both the U of C and the SU need to give reasons for these changes and listen to students. Students were fine with the way That Empty Space was operated. The SU runs the risk of having a truly empty space with these changes.

. . The Gauntlet Editorial Board

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