The closure of Bluff’s restaurant at the University of Toronto Scarborough has employees and students thinking the student union is bluffing about its finances.
On Feb.6, the day before Bluff’s closed, about 30 students attended a sit-in to confront Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) president Zuhair Syed.
“I think that [the SCSU is] hiding something and that the reasons for closing down Bluff’s are complete nonsense,” former employee Stephanie Hawkland said.
The SCSU blamed the accountant and restaurant managers for mismanagement of Bluff’s, said sit-in organizer Jon Mandrozos.
“It was mismanaged for nine months and they didn’t do anything about it. That doesn’t make sense to me because they say that they are not held accountable for the restaurant even if they own it,’ Mandrozos said.
Mandrozos also said he does not understand how the $30,000 emergency bailout that Bluff’s got from the SCSU last year was spent within two weeks. Previously, the restaurant’s $140,000 yearly budget had been sufficient.
Syed said the bailout money was spent so quickly because it was used on overdue payments to employees and other restaurant expenses. The SCSU decided to withhold further bailout funds because they were rapidly consumed and Bluff’s revenue was unreliable, he said.
“We’re working on a strategic plan for a restaurant which will sustain itself financially without the need to ask students for extra funding,” Syed said. “We want to have a student-run restaurant that has affordable prices and is open to late hours.”
He added the new plan will make it easier for students’ clubs to host events at the restaurant and the menu will improve.
“We’re going to have a student committee with students from the management department, other campus’ business clubs and people from the UTSC community to put in their feedback,” said Amir Bashir, vice-president external of the SCSU.
Bluff’s was closed because the business plan was not set up according to campus needs, he said.
Another concern is Bluff’s poor marketing, as many students and Scarborough residents did not know of the restaurant, Bashir said.
However, some employees contradicted claims that Bluff’s closed due to the decline in sales.
“I totally disagree with what the SCSU says because we were making a lot of money in turn of our business. This year the restaurant could make between $1,500 and $1,700 on a regular day,” Bluff’s assistant manager Shanique Edwards said.
Edwards said the financial information from the SCSU and its official report on Bluff’s are not accurate.
“They wrote all over the report trying to account for things that were not originally written on the report just to make themselves look good in terms of Bluff’s financial situation,” Edwards said.
Syed said that even though Bluff’s was at arms-length to the SCSU, as president he takes responsibility for the situation and acknowledges that mistakes were made.
“We do not run a perfect operation and I think we should have been more vigilant. I apologize for not telling students in advance about what was happening with Bluff’s.”
Sit-in participants were not convinced with Syed’s answers, but for Bashir the sit-in was at least a sign of student involvement.
“It’s healthy for students to voice their concerns because our campus has been apathetic for the longest time,” Bashir said. “It’s good to see that some students actually care about our campus.”