Students respond to Antlers survey

Brainstorming has begun to devise the best plan to relaunch Antlers Pub, 162 W. Fourth St., when Gannon University takes control of the building May 15.

Nearly 250 students responded to a survey facilitated by Gannon’s student-led Antlers Task Force to provide feedback on a theme, hours of operation, food and programming options for the space. The results of the survey will be revealed at an open forum at 6:30 p.m. April 13 in Room 104 of the Zurn Science Center. At the open forum, attendees will also have the opportunity to share more ideas and discuss progress in the planning process for the new operation.

The Antlers Task Force hopes to have a concrete plan for the venture presented to university administrators by the end of April, said Alan Swigonski, director of the Waldron Campus Center and the task force’s staff facilitator.

Swigonski said the group will begin combing through the survey results this week.  He noted that listening to student feedback is the group’s No. 1 priority, and future plans for the space will directly depend on what the students say they want.

“The Waldron Campus Center might be the center of campus during the day, but in the evening, it shifts to where the residence halls are,” he said. “So, having the chance to do something for students closer to where they reside is a nice benefit, and we need to make the most of it. It is an interesting challenge.”

The university purchased the Antlers land, building and equipment for $180,000 on Dec. 21, said Linda Wagner, vice president for finance and administration, in a January 2011 interview with The Gannon Knight. The transaction does not include the liquor license, as the current property owner is looking to relocate the pub, she said.

Wagner added that the university bought the adjacent 10-space parking lot from a different property owner in August 2010 for $267,000. Antlers will remain open and continue to operate as a bar until May 15.

Swigonski said Antlers – whether it ends up retaining the name or having it changed – will reopen in two phases, beginning with limited hours in August 2011. He said he hopes to have the project running in full swing in August 2012. He noted that there’s no guarantee that Antlers, once operating under Gannon’s control, will remain in the same format in which it opens.

“It’s not just taking attendance and crunching numbers,” Swigonski said. “It’s, ‘What do you think so far?’ It’s going to be a working process.”

Frequent Antlers patron Nicole Dohoda, a senior theatre and communication arts major, expressed a bit of sadness at the bar’s upcoming closure, but said she thinks the space will be beneficial to future generations of Gannon students. She suggested that it should be transformed into an “intimate but informal” coffee house with a small stage.

“We use Club LaRiccia a lot for shows and mini-performances, but it’s a tough space to book since it’s in the cafeteria,” she said. “If there was a space that was more open to having people come in to perform small-scale productions or karaoke, that’d be absolutely phenomenal.”

A coffee shop could potentially be in Antlers future – student entrepreneurs at the One Green World Café, currently located in the International Student Office in the Zurn Science Center, are developing a business plan to expand their operation into the building. Three students receive either independent study or internship credit for managing the coffee shop under the supervision of Kurt Hersch, business administration program director. Talks have begun between the Antlers Task Force and the café staff, said Swigonski.

“Parallel paths have come together, so now we can exchange information,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll reach the same conclusion – we’re communicating, working together.”

Vincent Bruce, a senior English major and publicity manager for One Green World Café, said he believes this is the best plan for Antlers future because the café already has solid management, leadership and a business plan in place.

“The coffee shop would give Gannon a place to unwind, get a snack and perform every so often,” Bruce said.

Bruce said One Green World Café has grown from a self-serve coffee pot sitting on a table aside an honor-system donation basket to a fully operational student-run business, and the move to Antlers would be the next logical step forward.

“We already serve quality products at reasonable prices to the Gannon community, and we would like the chance to do so on a larger scale,” he said.

Senior political science and philosophy major Chad Hienz said the building should serve as a social space where students can just gather to hang out and use their meal plans to buy food.

“I don’t think it should be a study area, because there’s already the library and the Power Room,” he said. “But since Gannon doesn’t really have a union like a lot of other schools, this could serve as the union of sorts.”

Christa Concilla, a freshman physician assistant major, urged the task force to take all age groups into account when planning what to do with Antlers.

“Don’t just limit it to the upperclassmen. We’re babies; we’re 18,” she said with a laugh. “It could be a coffee shop – it could be fun. We could snap while people read poetry.”

But sophomore criminal justice major Marino Quercio disagrees.The purchase was a good move on Gannon’s part, he said, but he thinks the building would be better off being bulldozed into a parking lot.

“It’s hard to find parking,” he said. “Luckily, I get to park at the APD [Alpha Phi Delta] house.”

Swigonski said all the students’ ideas have value, and sorting through them is a welcome challenge.

“You’re getting everything from ‘it should be parking’ to ‘it should be a bar to a coffee shop’ to ‘something with late-night food and some programming here and there,’” he said. “It can’t be all of those at the same time. But the idea would be, ‘How can we take that information and, on a limited budget, turn it into something that students don’t already have that will benefit them the most?’”

Getting students to work together to zero in on the best possibility will be the exciting next step, Swigonski said.

“We’re going to start to erase some of those uncertainties in the next few weeks,” he said. “It’ll be interesting. It’s a unique opportunity.”


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