Reggie’s bar doesn’t operate according to the average business philosophy. In fact, it runs almost contrary to the normal sense of the term.
“My goal isn’t to make as much money as humanly possible. That’s what make us different from any other bar,” said the bar’s manager Marlow Wilson, a fourth-year student in political science and economics. He said their goal is two-fold: “One is to provide a bar for students, and two is make a little bit of money and break even.”
A longtime fixture of the Sir George Williams campus downtown, Reggie’s has been around since the 1970s. It was named after a beloved janitor who was a regular at the campus bar. Originally on the seventh floor of the Henry Hall Building, it was moved down to the second floor in 1994.
It would be an understatement to say that it’s been through some major changes since then. According to Wilson, at one point it was to be turned into a Shisha bar. “I was told that somebody came in and painted rainbows, and fields and green… like psychadelic colors all over the bar,” he said.
Reggie’s Bar is under the direction of CUSACorp Management Ltd, a profit-generating subsidiary corporation of the Concordia Student Union (CSU). Because the CSU appoints a new board of CUSACorp directors every year, Reggie’s is subject to major annual changes.
“There were several points at which accountability and good sound management could break down. In the past, the board [would be] good and the management was bad, or vice versa,” Wilson said. “But for the last couple of years, maybe it’s nothing more than good planning and good fortune, [we have had] good management at the bar and a good board working together.”
Reggie’s darkest moment was during 2000 to 2001 when several employees were prosecuted for stealing from the cash register. “A lot of money was missing in a short period of time,” Wilson said.
Another scam was uncovered when the bar was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for installing the porthole windows on the wall behind the stage. According to Wilson, the contractor was related to a CUSACorp board member.
Since the 1980s, the CSU, as its shareholder, has spent up to a million dollars to bail out the bar whenever it ran into a financial crisis. “In the past nobody knew if CUSACorp. made any money until its year-end report,” Wilson said. They do inventory weekly now to check for discrepancies. So far, the books are clean.
Reggie’s finances, as well as CUSACorp’s accounting, is now handled by the CSU’s VP Finance, Fauve Caustagna.
It seems that Caustagna is already ahead as, according to her, the board of directors of CUSACorp is about to review the financial statement for operations conducted up to this point within the fall semester. They will not be available for the public however, until CUSAACorp is finished with them.
“[Financially], I don’t see [Reggie’s] just as a student bar anymore, I see it more as a professional bar,” she said, who added that she is trying to apply what she learned in the retail and service industry to handling the finances of the bar.
Reggie’s has seen a visible turnaround since three years ago, when it was “dark and seedy” and was a haven for a small group of regulars who weren’t students at Con-U, according to Wilson.
“It wasn’t the vibrant campus bar where you expect to see someone. You would never ask a girl after class to come have a drink at Reggie’s.it kind of scared people away,” he said.
Today, the scene on Thirsty Thursdays includes harried bartenders serving non-stop, a bumping dance-floor, and throngs of people jamming themselves into every space and spilling over to the tables of Java-U next door when the café is closed.
Wilson said the change of pace is all about a “shift in attitude.” That means adjusting the lighting and repainting to make the place brighter, as well as trying to cater to a broad variety of tastes.
Reggie’s also tries to be a little bit of everything for students, unlike most bars and pubs that find its own niche.
“Because we’re trying to provide services to so many students, we don’t want to just do one thing.” According to Wilson, that’s why Reggie’s turns into a jazz lounge on Mondays, features a regular live musician on Wednesday nights, and puts on a nightclub scene on Thursdays.
“I think we’re doing a good job of walking a fine line between providing a good thing for students and . . . staying afloat. It’s always been my [goal] to make Reggie’s fair [to students],” said Marlow.
After all, Reggie’s motto is “your student bar.”