No, this is not a drill – Shadows Bar really is set to move locations sometime in the near future. Where to? Why? No one knows. Not even AUSA President Anand Rama or Shadows Bar manager Matt Marquet can say.
“It’s not a decision of ours,” laughs Rama, when I speak to him over a stain-smeared table in Shadows. Marquet, who sits across from us, nods. The university has indicated they want the bar moved by 2020, he says, but he doesn’t know where it will be moved to. “We’re not being cagey,” Marquet jokes, when he declines to tell me where the new bar will be located. “It’s just we don’t know. [The university] holds all the cards, they tell us what they wanna tell us, and we go forward from there.”
Rama and Marquet say they were informed of the decision late last year. “It has to do with – I guess – the university’s future plans for their buildings and their structures and their areas. It’s a little bit out of our hands,” says Marquet, when I ask him why the bar is being moved now. “But it’s not a bad thing,” he continues – the bar has been in the same place for almost 36 years now, and it’s well overdue a make-over. “It’s about time we freshened things up and modernised ourselves for modern students,” says Marquet. Running my hand over a table so sticky it would probably scare off most cockroaches, I’m inclined to agree.
In the meantime, Marquet and Rama are adamant that students can expect to enjoy Shadows Bar as they normally would. “Nothing changes until next year,” Marquey says. “I can’t stress enough it’s not gonna in any way impact students and what they want and what they love. What they’re being offered currently they’ll continue to be offered”, he assures me.
But what about next year? What happens with the new location? Marquet says we can expect to find a fully revamped Shadows, one which has been designed with students’ needs in mind. “Again, this is down the line,” he says, but he and Rama have begun looking at what AUSA and Shads can do together to ensure it retains its place at the heart of student culture. As part of this, Marquet says he will be asking students what they would like to see from the new bar – what aspects of the current bar they want to keep, and what they want changed. “Again, this is down the line,” he says, “but once we get approval, we’ll start looking at what AUSA and Shads can do together. What kind of things do students want more of, you know? We want to make sure we have a venue set catered to what students want.”
Rama says the pair want to look at the new venue as “just a space”. They don’t want to assume the layout or look of it until they’ve decided what it should function as. “Maybe it will be more a study space during the day, and a bar at night,” says Rama, thinking out loud. Maybe it will remain a fully-fledged bar – Rama doesn’t know. “These are just questions at this stage that we’re just starting to look at”, he admits. But there is one element of the new space they have decided on – charging ports. “The thing we’ve been told the last few weeks is charging ports … [and] why not? Why not have a 50 port charging area where students can come charge their phone. If the university’s not gonna give those facilities, why don’t we?” says Marquet.
But, of course, some things won’t be changing. “There’s certain things we know we have to have to function,” says Marquet, “Obviously, $8 jugs will always be there. And, of course, two dollar toasties”. Marquet and Rama say, as much as they want to redesign look and feel of Shadows, they don’t intend to change the “core pillars” – cheap drinks, cheap food, and a welcoming atmosphere. “I know from things in the past you’re all very passionate about student lager, and if I changed anything in that way, I’d probably have a mutiny on my hands,” laughs Marquet, “So definitely, those elements, they’re never gonna change.”
Eventually, I ask the obvious question. Shadows Bar knows it will be evicted at the end of the year. Shadows Bar has been promised a new location somewhere on campus. Shadows Bar has not actually been given this location yet. So what happens if the bar is evicted before a new location has been found or agreed upon? Marquet and Rama can’t answer the question. Neither can Chair of the Board of the Kennedy’s Ltd (a company owned by The Bar Trust, which operates Shadows Bar) Hamish Stevens, who, when I asked him over email, simply replied with the ominous, all-bolded sentence: we need an alternative location for Shadows to continue.
But Rama and Marquet say they’re not too worried about this happening. “We will continue, we don’t know much more, but we know we’re gonna continue,” says Marquet. Rama and Marquet are confident the university will respect the value Shadows brings to the campus. “End of the day, Shadows – I would call it a rite of passage,” says Marquet, “Every student must, you know, come in and enjoy the goodness of Shads lager. It goes hand in hand with getting your piece of paper for your degree … we’re a big institution on this campus, the university knows that. They know you guys want us.”
Ultimately, Rama and Marquet say they just want students to see the change as an exciting new beginning, rather than the end of an era. “I know there’s been the beginning of grumblings around the place saying ‘Shads, is this gonna be your last year?’ – it’s not,’ says Marquet. “This place should be out-living all of us. If myself and Anand get out way, it’s definitely gonna outlive us. And that’s the point.”
Note: Craccum approached the university for comment, but was unable to find a suitable contact in time.