On Jan. 27, College Council (CC) gave its support to the Gargoyle Society’s proposal to reopen the Log and voted to allot up to $20,000 to its reopening. The Log may reopen as soon as this semester if the proposal is approved by College administrators.
The Log, a rustic white building at 78 Spring St., served as the student pub until the opening of Paresky’s ’82 Grill in 2007 and has since completely shut down its operations as a bar. The Gargoyle Society, according to its official proposal, intends “to reopen the Log as a regularly operating bar, yet to do so in a way that takes into account both the reasons for its closure and the current social needs of the Williams community.”
Jonathan Galinksy ’10 and Tarik El-Hussein ’10, Gargoyle Society representatives and coordinators of the project, have been working with Dining Services and the College administration to finalize their proposal to re-open the Log this semester.
In addition to serving wine and beer, the Log would serve a variety of gourmet sandwiches, baked goods, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Unlike in the past, the Log will not host dance parties, but instead hold events “such as open mic nights and literary readings, along with pub quizzes and other creative events,” the proposal said.
According to Galinsky, the inspiration to reopen the Log came from his conversations with alumni. “Many alumni from the past four years would say that some of their best memories are from the Log,” Galinsky said.
Despite previous attempts at reopening the Log, the current initiative marks the closest any of these have come to succeeding.
With a nearly unanimous affirmative vote from the CC, the project gained not only the support of the representatives of the student body but also financial flexibility. Galinsky noted that the Log will have to be self-sustaining because the College will only provide minor start up costs if the proposal is ultimately passed; The CC funding would be used in the case that the Log runs deficits in its operations. Before a final decision about reopening the Log can be made, however, the proposal will have to be evaluated by senior staff.
“I thought the students with whom I was working wrote an excellent vision statement and that the proposal was a reasonable one,” said Steve Klass, vice president for operations. “At the same time, this proposal is about creating a business. There are aspects to this particular situation that are expensive and have long-term implications for resource use that we have to evaluate very carefully.” He emphasized the need to develop a business model that can convincingly stand on its own beyond the finite subsidy that CC has pledged. As currently proposed, the Log’s operations will require the use of additional staff, or expanded hours for existing staff, as well as possible additional investment in equipment and related facilities expenses.
Klass noted the “difficult choices” about cost-cutting measures implemented across College operations. “With that in mind, it’s going to be a big challenge to reconcile that reality with an announcement that we were opening a pub on weekends that requires expanded staffing,” he said. “Before we can consider the proposal, [we need to] understand the true operating costs, evaluate any potential capital costs, and most importantly, make a decision as to whether or not this is the best and highest use of additional staffing at the present time.”
According to Galinsky, Gargoyle is cognizant of these budget constraints but “optimistic that financial support from CC and enthusiasm from the Williams community will give us the momentum we need to move the project forward.” If granted permission to proceed, Galinsky said that the first step would be to seek approval from the town. “We haven’t really had a dialogue with the town about this, though this would be very important pending approval by the College,” he said. “We are looking forward to working with them more once the project comes into fruition.”
Noting the two extremes of the social spectrum on campus – students who participate in heavy drinking and dance parties and students who do not participate in the drinking culture – El-Hussein pointed out that the Log could serve the needs of students who fall in the middle of the campus social scene. He also cited the neighborhoods and faculty members as other groups in the community who could take advantage of the venue. Elizabeth Jimenez ’12, a member of the Currier governance board, agreed that the Log could fulfill a needed social function. “There is a need on campus for a chill lounge area that is not a staged area like Goodrich or Baxter Hall, and a place that isn’t as far removed as Driscoll lounge and Currier ballroom,” Jimenez said.
However, she also expressed concern about how accessible this proposed environment would be to students on financial aid, due to the necessity of spending money separate from meal plans.
The project coordinators and dining services have determined that students will not be able to use meal equivalency points at the Log. Galinsky cited concerns that the use of equivalency points might compromise the Log’s community feel. “The Log could become more of a place to pick up a meal rather than a place to socialize,” Galinsky said, also pointing out that such a policy could cause a negative reaction to the Log from the restaurants already on Spring StreetFurthermore, Bob Volpi, director of dining services, noted that this year fiscal year’s budget was planned without the Log, making it impossible to accommodate equivalency.
A Williams Students Online (WSO) discussion and a Willipedia petition appear to echo CC’s favorable vote “This has all taken place independently of Gargoyle’s efforts,” Galinsky said. “It is very exciting and shows how deep student support is for this project going forward.”
Additional reporting by Sasha Mironoff, News Editor.