McGill’s binge-drinking culture has often, correctly, been cast in a negative light. It’s unhealthy, it hinders discretion, and events like Power Hour aren’t exactly resumé friendly. However, there may be a way to harness McGill’s drinking prowess for good. When it comes to the campus bar, Gerts, students may be able to fund their student clubs by drinking their way out of the McGill student union’s financial woes.
Anecdotally, when Gerts comes up in conversation, student sentiment tends to be ‘meh.’ Gerts just doesn't inspire the same McGill pride that other venues, like Open Air Pub (OAP), manage to foster. While OAP has been called the “Best Place on Earth,” Gerts is still seen as underwhelming. The reputed function of drinking among McGill students is to bring the McGill community together, but students just don't seem to want to party at Gerts; the bar’s patronage has declined over the past two years. However, what students might not realize is that, by drinking at Gerts, they're effectively contributing financially to their own student-run activities.
All McGill undergraduate students pay membership fees to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). In turn, SSMU funds many popular events, clubs, and services for students ranging from Activities Night to the Quidditch Club. In addition to these membership fees, Gerts is a significant source of revenue for SSMU and Gerts’ profits contribute to funding these initiatives. The 2016-2017 Operating Budget projects Gerts to make about $51,000 in profit, which goes towards funding SSMU’s club operating costs. Essentially, if students choose to drink at Gerts over the many other bars in Montreal, their beer money is paying for both beer and SSMU operations. And given SSMU’s financial situation, it desperately needs Gerts to increase its profits.
Due to a $130,000 budget deficit last year, SSMU has had to make budget cuts this year to reach a compensatory $100,000 budget surplus. The budget cuts are in part due to the rejection of the Winter 2016 Special Referendum to raise the SSMU base fee by $5.50. Corporate sponsorship initiatives to address SSMU’s funding issues, like the Tangerine tent at Activities Night, were also criticized. So, if students rejected paying $5.50 more for SSMU’s operations and services, but are fine paying $15 for a pitcher of beer, the obvious solution is to drink more at Gerts.
At Gerts, pitchers of beer and sangria are $15 and $17 respectively. In these terms, the SSMU $100,000 budget cut is equivalent to approximately 6,700 pitchers of beer or 5,900 pitchers of sangria. To put these numbers into context, in a single day, OAP sold 20,000 beers. Although Gerts has operating costs, considering that there 23,140 full-time undergraduate students were enrolled in Fall 2015, surely, these are rookie numbers for McGill.
Gerts can channel McGill students’ drinking habits and make them an instrument for good. All that has to be done is to give Gerts a chance. Its first event of the year—B-Week—was already a success, so McGill students should have no issue turning out to more events at Gerts. After all, there’s only one place in Montreal where students can fund their student society while demonstrating the famed McGill drinking prowess.