V.R. looks to increase student involvement

Amy Siebels

The Viking Room may be a bar, but it’s also a business. And with student attendance down this term compared to the end of last year, the staff at the V.R. is working to bring in more crowds.
Linda Pinto, a Viking Room manager, said that while business is slightly slower this year than at the same time last year, the bar is not in danger of closing.
Pinto said that one reason for low student attendance could be the new all-campus smoking ban, which makes no exception for the V.R. She added, however, that there are many other reasons -one of which is simply the smaller number of students over 21 during first term.
The V.R. has been holding a variety of programs this term to increase business, Pinto said. Those include Ladies’ Night, a Leinie’s Beer Night, a trivia event, and a Friday Happy Hour with pizza.
Yet to come this term are a Holiday Night, brats during Friday Happy Hour, and a poker tournament.
Wednesdays are now Senior Nights, some of which will involve special events, like the 200 Days party to be held Nov. 22. Senior Nights feature specials on the senior class drinks in addition to weekly specials. Pinto said the V.R. tries to offer new drinks on special every week to give students a chance to try something different.
One promotion that won’t be coming soon is drinks on Viking Gold or Grill Credit. The V.R. only accepts cash and checks, and that’s how it’s going to stay. Why? Pinto said besides the “risk” of parents funding their children’s drinking, there’s also the problem that some people receive financial aid for meals. Government money, of course, cannot go toward alcohol.
Royce Zehr is another manager for the V.R. She has worked in the bar for four years and says she’s seen a lot of changes.
“I’ve been here when it was a lot busier,” Zehr said. “Seniors were here all the time and it was so much fun.” That was even before the pool table was redone and the ping-pong and foosball tables were added, Zehr said.
Zehr noted that the first Ladies’ Night this term was popular. She hopes to repeat the event twice per trimester.
Another unusual but successful event this term was a night with Dean Nancy Truesdell, held last Thursday. Zehr said about 15 students attended and discussed issues on campus. Truesdell stayed for about an hour and a half, and was “very friendly and very objective,” according to Zehr. She said most of the participants were seniors, and everyone learned new things about the campus. Truesdell’s drink of choice? Tea, although several students offered to buy her drinks.
Another source of income and promotion for the V.R. is official merchandise. The bar now sells T-shirts in several styles. And then there’s the popular V.R. mug. Students can buy a mug and have anything engraved on it, all for $20. The first drink with the mug is free; each subsequent drink gets 25 cents off. The mugs are popular with students and faculty, who leave them at the bar where they’re washed and stored until graduation … although some alumni choose to leave theirs at the V.R. for when they come back to visit.
“I have alumni come back when they’re in town and have a few beers and reminisce about the good times they’ve had,” said Zehr.
That’s the kind of loyalty the V.R. staff wants to encourage. Zehr says they are trying to promote the 35-year-old bar as a Lawrence tradition.
Pinto wants the Viking Room to be a place for students to call home. “We would like students to see us as a place that they can come to when they want to sit and study with a beer for a while and then hang out with their friends,” she said.
Zehr agrees. She added, “We just wish the student body would take more of an ownership of the bar. We’re always willing to take student suggestions.