Ask a fifth-year: Culinary Cash in the Viking Room?

Evan Williams

(Drawing by Annie Raccuglia)

Dear Evan,

This past weekend I was invited to go to VR with some friends. Unfortunately I had to turn them down because I’m strapped for cash these days, and alcohol doesn’t exactly encourage fiscal responsibility. This led to a discussion of why we should be able to use Culinary Cash at the VR. Do you agree that our meal plans should help support our drinking habits?


It’s okay as long as I’m in college

For those of us of age, the Viking Room is a wonderful place to fraternize with friends in a safe setting where only creepy college kids hit on you, instead of creepy middle-aged people. It’s truly a part of the “Lawrence Difference” — man, I miss that slogan. My friends from other colleges are always amazed to hear that Lawrence actually operates its own bar. Then they laugh at me for going to school in Wisconsin.

When Bon Appétit took over dining operations at LU, they also took over management of the VR. When that happened, many of us thought we’d get to spend this new and nifty “Culinary Cash” at the VR. Last year, rumors circulated that this was in fact the case — I wasn’t much of a VR patron those days, so I never knew for sure.

It’s clear now that that is not the case. In talking to a friend who is a bartender at the VR, I learned that LU was concerned that students would spend all of their Culinary Cash on booze instead of food. While it is true that one should not live by beer alone, it’s interesting that LU would care about our moral well-being so much.

After all, one of the first acts of LUCC was establishing the VR. Lawrence alums proudly proclaim that when the drinking age was 18, beer was on tap at Downer. On tap! Most importantly, this is Wisconsin; beer isn’t just a drink, it’s a way of life. I suspect — although I of course have not bothered to do any research or inquiries — that the decision not to accept Culinary Cash at the VR is a financial one on the part of Bon Appétit, rather than a moral or health concern on the part of the administration.

Apparently, the attendance at the VR is declining. Come on, folks, stop drinking in your room and go to the VR! I personally always see a lot of people there, but I only go on weekends. I feel that drinking in the middle of the week is kind of a sad lifestyle, but different strokes for different folks. Due to this decline, Bon Appétit might be breaking even at the VR or operating at a loss.

Now, allowing people to use Culinary Cash would certainly attract more customers, but essentially none of those customers are paying, thus creating more financial loss — just look how well “Paddy’s Bucks” worked for Mac and Dennis. Bon Appétit is a for-profit business, not a charity — imagine a charity dedicated to providing alcohol to those without, how sweet would that be? So, naturally, it should be expected that they seek monetary gain from fun times.

Personally, after living through three years of Downer — and getting to marvel at the best tacky architecture that 1960s Northeast Wisconsin had to offer — along with losing the coffee house and Lucinda’s, paying cash at the VR is a small concession for the great quality of Bon Appétit food. So save up your money, readers over the legal drinking age, and I’ll see you at the VR over drinking — I mean reading — period.