That Empty Space gets more full

After several months as a dry venue, it looks as though That Empty Space will be able to resume serving liquor.

The Students’ Union activity and concert venue moved to its new location on the first floor of MacEwan Student Centre in September and has been unable to serve alcohol since.

Although the space won’t be fully licensed year-round, the monthly concerts will now be able to serve students more than just coffee and tea.

According to the SU, much of the problem had to do with a misunderstanding on their part that the space would still be licensed after the move.

“The big thing was that we never even thought it would be an issue, it’s part of our conference and events venues,” said SU vice-president operations and finance James Delaney. “Seeing as how conference and events always had a liquor licence and still does, we didn’t know that moving was such an issue.”

U of C associate vice-provost student services Voula Cocolakis said that according to her records, TES was never licensed in its old location and when the move happened the venue needed to conform with government regulations.

“They had to apply for a new licence in the new space because the capacity was different and they had to comply to certain rules, like if you serve liquor you have to have food as well, so all of that had to be in place,” said Cocolakis.

In accordance with regulations, the space will now be serving pizza along with the typical drink fare that was available last year. A fire marshal inspection also determined the capacity to be 190.

According to the SU, administration was installing more strict liquor practices just as the SU applied to have the space licensed.

“So when we approached them it was basically the worst time we could have,” said Delaney.

Cocolakis said that at the beginning of the term, the school was trying to ensure compliance from all groups, including student clubs and functions, with liquor policy on the campus.

“So we had to slow things down a little bit, there’s no doubt,” said Cocolakis. “We were scrutinizing to make sure that any club that wanted to serve alcohol was following the rules so we had to put the brakes on everything to make sure everyone was compliant to our licences. We stalled any new applications until everything was in place.”

Fifth-year economics student Riley Fairbanks said That Empty Space has changed this year with the absence of a licence and less people are attending in the shows. He thinks the return of alcohol service will make for a better atmosphere.

“I think that’s awesome because I love going to That Empty Space to watch music but I also like having a beer while I watch music,” said Fairbanks. “I think that now that the liquor licence is back, there will be a much larger turnout.”

After months of student complaints and lobbying, Delaney said the SU and the school reached an agreement over the space. Delaney said one of the main hurdles was getting the school to look at the Students’ Union operations differently than a club’s.

“I think in talking with them they realized that that wasn’t a fair comparison,” said Delaney. “We have trained staff and trained security. We got a security report from campus security for any issues and the only thing that ever turned up was the popcorn-machine lit on fire once. Nothing to do with drinking.”

Delaney said the executive was happy with the school’s decision and won’t be pressing to have liquor service expand in the space any time soon. This means clubs and other groups looking to book the space will be unable to serve liquor.

“I think we’re going to see how it goes with the concerts,” said Delaney. “We do have enough licensed space that it’s not really an issue.”

The SU hopes that the return of a liquor licence will stem some of the criticisms lobbied by students over the quality of shows at the venue.

“A lot changed and I admit it was too much at once to change,” said Delaney. “The room changed, the timing changed, the type of band changed and the liquor license situation changed, so that’s a lot all at once. It was a completely different feel and a completely different space.”

“I just say give it a try.”

Delaney said before any other changes are considered, such as increased frequency of performances, the SU wants to give the venue some time.

“We’re going to continue to get larger bands than we have in the past and still try and get that local element as well. I think we can get the room a lot more packed than we have been,” said Delaney.

The next TES event is Nogfest on Dec.10 at 3 p.m..

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