Cornell’s much-hyped student pub was blasting music. In the Bear’s Den — which opened in Willard Straight Hall’s Ivy Room this semester — lights blared on a dance stage, and two television screens showed the baseball playoffs.
But no one was there to enjoy it. While students flooded Collegetown bars, at about 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night, the Bear’s Den remained entirely devoid of the nightlife that organizers hoped it would attract.
Organizers recently installed the dance stage and colored lights to fix this ongoing attendance problem and encourage more students to visit.
But on Friday, the only person in the pub was Bear’s Den cashier Celeste Cooper. Cooper said that nights like Friday, when the Bear’s Den appeared empty, are not uncommon.
“I’ve been working at the Bear’s Den for two months, and things only pick up when there are special events,” Cooper said.
While the pub committee — a subset of the Willard Straight Hall Union board — did not have a specific estimate for attendance figures before the pub’s opening, they said that the Bear’s Den has seen lower than expected attendance rates since its grand opening over a month ago. Although Cornell students say the low figures will be hard to improve without more promotion and a better atmosphere, the pub’s organizers remain optimistic.
Cooper said she has served approximately 80 people in the past two months. She said the figure may have been higher if the Bear’s Den were not physically connected to Stone Palace Pizza — an eatery in the Ivy Room — which she said causes confusion for students and faculty.
Students said that the Bear’s Den also lacks an atmosphere distinct from the rest of the Ivy Room.
“There hasn’t been a change to the ambience,” Mario Cespedes ’13 said. “You come in and it’s still the Ivy Room, but they sell alcohol. There’s no feeling that you’re coming into a new establishment.”
Adding further support to Cespedes’ statement, Niccolo Athens grad said that the Bear’s Den does not feel like a separate location because “it’s staffed by the same person as Stone Palace Pizza.”
“I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate the cafeteria atmosphere of it. This is not really an atmosphere for late night socializing,” he said.
Although some have expressed clearly defined opinions about the new pub, many students do not know what it is. On more than one occasion, students sitting only 10 feet from the bar claimed that they had never heard of the establishment and could not identify its location.
“I honestly don’t even know what the Bear’s Den is. I haven’t seen much advertising for it,” Erica Baevsky ’16 said.When asked what the Bear’s Den could do to increase awareness of it on campus, students suggested that its organizers hang signs promoting it in the Straight and around campus.
To ensure that Bear’s Den’s advertisements gain the attention of students and faculty, Baevsky suggested that pub organizers “use information sources that students check every day, like Facebook and Twitter.”
Aiesha Rasheed ’15 and Anika Alam ’15 also proposed that the pub committee host special events, such as musical acts and entertainment, at the pub.In fact, in an effort to promote the Bear’s Den, the pub committee has already hosted programs sponsored by various student groups and posted signs in school buildings.
At a meeting Wednesday, the committee agreed that it should ramp up such collaboration with organizations and reach out to more student groups for late-night programming. The Bear’s Den has scheduled some events for the upcoming weekend with the 2016 Class Council, Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority, but is looking to host more functions at the pub, according to commitee members, according to Lauren Ritter ’13, director of the pub committee, who is also The Sun’s sports editor.
All events at the pub will be open to the public, added Allisa Lindo ’14, a member of the pub committee.
While student and faculty organizers are making efforts to attract more customers, they said they are not overly concerned with the pub’s current attendance rates. According to committee members, the Bear’s Den simply needs more time to mature and gain attention — a phase that they believe most new businesses experience.
“The more programming we have happening by established groups, and the more successful that programming is, the more likely people are going to start coming to the Bear’s Den,” Ritter said.
After the pub passes this phase, its organizers are hoping to see both the fruits of their labors and investments pay off.So far, pub organizers have invested “a considerable amount of money” — as well as time and effort — into the pub, said Scott Davis, operations manager of Central Campus Dining.
When asked how much time he will allow to pass before deciding whether to invest more resources for the Bear’s Den, Davis said that it “totally depends on student participation and programming.”
“Right now, the Bear’s Den is a cub. It’s in its infancy. We need to crawl and then we need to walk and then we need to run,” he said.