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Scoop: University takes over management of Aberdeen’s only student bar

The ‘temporary’ arrangement will facilitate ‘continued opening during the summer break’

By Anttoni James Numminen

Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen

Control of Aberdeen’s only student union bar and café has been “temporarily” handed over

to the University of Aberdeen.

Union Brew, which is located in the Students’ Association building The Hub, was jointly run

by the University and AUSA for several years following a £200,000 refurbishment and

“reinvention” in 2018.

The Students’ Association took over full control of the bar as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and

has been blighted by financial issues ever since. It has struggled to compete with the

neighbouring St Machar and Bobbin bars, with its distant location from Aberdeen city centre also proving to be an issue.

This is in stark contrast with the Association’s heyday when it boasted a three-storey union

building in central Aberdeen’s Kirkgate/Bon Accord neighbourhood with six bars and capacity for 2,000 people.

The Bon Accord Union faced a turbulent closure in 2004 when a portion of its final 250-300

nightclub patrons clashed with staff in the wee hours following a raucous, booze-soaked

night (Fiona McWirther, ‘Bust up at Union Means It’s All Over,’ The Gaudie, March 2004).

At AUSA’s annual general meeting in May it was revealed that during the three months that

Union Brew managed to stay open in the 2021 financial year, it had overall sales of £2,000

or £166 per week.

Explaining the decision, Alisa Koester, Student President told The Gaudie:

“Like many hospitality outlets, Union Brew found it difficult to make a profit or break even during the pandemic and we took the decision to close Union Brew temporarily during the quiet summer months to ensure that the financial impact of this can be minimised.

“We further agreed that the University would temporarily offer a coffee service from Union Brew for this duration to service the University staff and limited number of students still on campus."

“We are excited to be working on plans to reopen Union Brew as an AUSA outlet in the new term and look forward to welcoming students back to our venue during Freshers’ Week.”

A University of Aberdeen spokesperson said the University considers Union Brew to be “an important amenity space” and the temporary handover would “facilitate its continued opening during the summer break”.

They added:

“The University will temporarily take over the running and staffing of Union Brew during this quiet period on campus. It will revert back to AUSA in time for the start of the new academic year.”

In 2018, The Gaudie reported on Union Brew’s refurbishment and planned handover to

AUSA management, reporting that “it has suffered from poor business which inspired a

transition to student union management […] plans are underway to make this term a

financial success.”

It remains to be seen if 2022 is the year that Union Brew is successfully “reinvented”.


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