Viking Room offers incentives to increase attendance

Maija Anstine

Lawrence’s on-campus bar, the Viking Room, continues to undergo improvements after numerous management shifts and lagging attendance.
“We’re trying to create a lot of interest,” said Bon Appétit Night Manager Kevin Biesack. Biesack noted new programming plans: Tall Boy Tuesdays, offering PBR tall boys for $1.25, live music on Fridays, featuring Lawrence’s own The Debutantes Jan. 21, and weekly drink specials, including this week’s hot toddy.
Food will also return to the VR “when it’s good,” according to Biesack, who explained that the food’s lacking flavor and quality is what caused its disappearance from the bar.
The student response to the food previously offered was “not good.” Chefs at Bon Appétit will supply food with better quality and flavor by mid-to-late February Biesack explained.
These culinary changes follow some rocky management changes, including four different managers over the last three years. Bartender David Gallagher believes these shifts have been “hurting the VR for business.”
Before Bon Appétit’s arrival, Gallagher explained, the VR was student-managed, though there was a non-student overseer. He explained that Bon Appétit attempted to shut the bar down upon their arrival but agreed to keep it open after immense student, faculty and alumni outcry.
Since then, the bar has had non-student managers, though Gallagher noted that Biesack, the bar’s newest manager, has made a special effort to keep the VR as student-led as possible.
“Change is change. It’s tough, but it’s going to happen,” summarized Gallagher, who remembers frequent first term Tuesday nights where he could “count the number of [patrons] on one hand.”
“It was packed every time I came [two years ago],” said VR patron Ken Wiele ’10, who has noticed a dramatic decline in attendance. “Sometimes on weekends, there’s no one here.”
Wiele didn’t understand this decline in light of the bar’s incredibly reasonable drink prices, referring to his $3 tall rum and Coke.
“We want students to not want [the Viking Room] to go away either,” said Biesack, noting that he hasn’t heard of any other student-run bars in Wisconsin. “This is their bar.”
Biesack says drinking at the VR is a safer alternative to going downtown, because students can just walk back home afterwards.
Or, Biesack suggests, students can visit either before or after their trips downtown. “[Students] have got a great thing here,” he explained.
“We’re on the uphill,” said Gallagher gesturing at an over half-full VR this Tuesday night.
Students can look forward to other changes including a popcorn machine, a Fat Tire bike and skateboard giveaway, a Superbowl party with food and peanuts during happy hours on Wednesday and Friday. with the added bonus of the liberty to throw shells on the floor.
Professors will continue to guest bartend this term, with Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Professor Jeremy Bakken tending bar Jan. 26 and a Bon Appétit chef tending in February. Trivia in the Viking Room will also continue this term, hosted every Thursday night by Kyle Griffin ’09.