UW’s Bombshelter unexpectedly announces it will be closing in new year

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Last Monday, Dec. 17, the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students (Feds) announced that — after over four decades — the iconic Bombshelter pub will be closing early in the new year, to make room for a new “student experience.” 

Started by students in 1974, the on-campus restaurant and bar became a well-known and central student hub. After 44 years of service to the university and surrounding community, it will be undergoing a series of changes to rejuvenate the space in 2019.

“Our student life centre and physical activity complex are going through an expansion, so there’s plenty of construction going in and around The Bomber, since [the pub] is situated in the Student Life Centre,” said Kurt MacMillan, vice-president: operations & finance for the Feds.

The renovations will begin in January, following their final “First Bomber Wednesday” on Jan. 9 and a “New Year’s Eve 2.0” event on Jan. 16.

“With this construction, we want to look at new opportunities for renovations and have a new vision for the space. The reason why we had to close it, on top of wanting to give it that face-lift, is due to its financial sustainability,” MacMillan said. 

There were a number of motivations behind this decision, not the least of which was a deficit of over one million dollars incurred over the course of five years, which was a major influencing factor. 

The Feds are currently working on the direction the space will be taking in the future, using the feedback provided to their Board of Directors through a series of consultations, research into how to best utilize its potential and see how it can most effectively suit students’ needs. 

Although discussions regarding renovations and ideas regarding closing down the Bombshelter began in late October, the Feds were required to follow proper protocol and HR processes before a final decision could be made. 

Because they are a Students’ Union, the Feds are looking to get student feedback on what the area should look like, to appeal to them the most. As far as how long the renovations will take, they’re hoping to be open for operation by the following fall. 

“Ideally, it would still be the food and beverage concept … with the whole renovation process and all that, we’re not entirely sure how long it’ll be closed and what exactly is happening with that space,” MacMillan said. 

Because of this, they are unsure as to how former employees will be integrated back into the location — or if that will even be a relevant concern by the time the improvements are finished. 

For many of those involved in the daily operations of the Bombshelter Pub, this has come as nothing less than a total surprise.

“We were completely in the dark … we got an email on Monday at 1:20 in the afternoon, asking if all the staff could come for a mandatory meaning … six people showed up to the meeting who were available to represent all of the 50 staff that were let go,” said Rebecca Mula, a student who worked at the Bombshelter Pub for over three years and must now describe herself as “Ex Bomber Staff.”

“They basically said in the meeting that, even though this is a hard decision, it’s what has to be done for Bomber.”

With the holidays around the corner, the added weight of finding a new job by the new year will weigh heavily on the minds of the now 50 unemployed staff. 

“This past week has honestly been the most stressful thing I’ve had to go through. I was relying on Bomber to get through school — I’ve been in school, full-time and working basically full-time hours for the last three years,” Mula said. 

“I was not expecting this so close to the holidays, let alone in the middle of my exam season, where I had to deal with three exams all within this week and have to deal with trying to organize my life to find a job in January when no one really hires in January.”

The reasoning behind the decision remains difficult for some to accept due to a lack of timely communication.

“I just wish we could have had something better for our staff. We’ve been so loyal to Bomber throughout the years and we just feel incredibly disrespected at how they handled the situation and how they’ve been treating us, so I just wish we could have had something better,” Mula said.

“I can’t see UW not having a bar on campus, so I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

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