In the midst of Ché Café’s struggle with UCSD, the university has now informed Porter’s Pub that its lease will also not be renewed.
  • In the midst of Ché Café’s struggle with UCSD, the university has now informed Porter’s Pub that its lease will also not be renewed.
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The Stage Room

9500 Gilman Drive, UCSD

UCSD administration first took aim at the Ché Café, and now it has its sights set on Porter’s Pub.

“It’s like they’re giving themselves chemo but killing off all of the wrong organs,” says a UCSD alum who is monitoring the school’s extermination of on-campus music venues. “Are they killing these venues off to pay for the sins of the Sun God Festival?”

Porter’s Pub has hosted all-ages concerts since 1993. Stephen Lawler has held the lease to oversee the Porter’s Pub food-and-beer concession and its adjoining stage area for the past seven years. He tells the Reader that he has been informed that his lease will not be renewed. Lawler says he is pursuing options, including possible legal action. He declined to comment for the record.

While “safety concerns” was the university’s reason for trying to close the Ché, Porter’s closure is centered on a decision from a committee called the University Centers Advisory Board. A UCAB statement says that the reason UCSD should seek a new tenant is because Porter’s Pub is selling too much food in relation to its beer sales, that inspectors who visited Porter’s didn’t like the food experience, and that Porter’s did not let student groups use the stage as much as is stipulated in the lease.

While Lawler would not speak on record, one source close to Porter’s says the claim that students didn’t get to use the stage as much as is stipulated in the lease was “bullshit” and can be proven so. The Porter’s insider says that only within the past 12 months have police been called in to patrol hip-hop shows. “We never had any incident in seven years other than [police] coming in to cause trouble.”

“Very few people know about UCAB meetings, their agendas, or their times and locations,” says UCSD grad student Josh Kenchel, who was a member of the Associated Students Council last year. “UCAB’s anonymity is the major reason why this decision came as a surprise to everybody.”

Kenchel suggests there may be an underlying move to gentrify the La Jolla campus and points out that last year a Starbucks replaced a locally owned fair-trade coffee shop named Café Espresso Roma. “Here is where you can connect the dots between Porter’s Pub and Che Café...Porter’s Pub is a campus institution that, as wonderful as it is, and though it has many loyal fans and customers, does not fit into UCSD. It is simply not mainstream enough. This is the hidden message when you read phrases such as ‘low sales numbers’ and ‘lack of adherence to University Centers reservation procedures.’ Don’t be surprised if they proceed to lease the pub space to a national chain, which they expect to yield higher sales.”

Attempts to get comments from UCSD assistant vice chancellor Gary Ratcliff or UCAB were not successful.

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Comments

jpkrim Dec. 11, 2014 @ 9:26 p.m.

I wonder how much "stage time" the students get at the La Jolla Playhouse. I guess that venue is exempt. It's an absolute shame that this current administration at UCSD can wipe away decades of tradition and culture. We must stop the Van Bruggenization of UCSD.

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Sdrick101 Dec. 11, 2014 @ 10:58 p.m.

Well, jpkrim, the students have a full season of shows on all the theatre district stages. There's a fine student production of GOLDEN BOY going on right now. You might want to drop by and check it out.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 7:30 a.m.

Stephen Shepard: The point of recent AS member Josh Kenchel is that no one has even heard of the University Center Advisory Board, let alone know about their meeting schedule or specifically that there was going to be a meeting to discuss the fate of Porter's Pub. Also, may I please remind you of a recent article about the Che Cafe where we pointed out the AS first voted to resolve that the UC administration sit down in good faith to resolve Che's issues. But that at the very next meeting, AFTER A PRIVATE MEETING BETWEEN THE AS PRESIDENT AND VICE CHANCELLOR RATCLIFF according to Kenchel, the AS voted instead to ask the Che to evict itself then have these meetings with UC administartion. Interestingly, The AS President and Ratcliff did not return requests to comment.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 8:20 a.m.

Stephen Shepard: Would like to see what you have to say to Mychal's statement that UCAB is not a student organization and that people have no idea they even exist.

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stepshep Dec. 13, 2014 @ 12:58 a.m.

I have been busy preparing for finals. Hopefully you find my answer satisfactory!

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RossF Dec. 12, 2014 @ 10:53 a.m.

This is an incredibly unprofessional article.

For starters, the author states that one of the reasons UCSD didn't extend the lease is because Porter's Pub sells more food than alcohol. Uh, what? It's the opposite as Porter's beer sales far eclipse their food sales. They can lose their license over this since their permit requires them to sell more food than alcohol.

I also find it funny that the author states that UCAB is invisible and not student run. UCAB is probably the most known student club on campus, given that it has voted on measures involving Starbucks and the Che Cafe. UCAB's meetings are not secretive either; they have been at 2:00 on Tuesdays for as long as I can remember. And the meeting schedule, with room locations, is on the front page of their website.

Speaking of which, did the author even bother to visit their website? http://ucab.ucsd.edu (wow, what a secretive and confusing link!). On the front page, you will see UCAB's statement regarding the Porter's Pub decision. "not available to comment"...how much time did you give them to comment on this? They already released a statement. The board is composed of students, who are currently in preparation for finals. Perhaps responding to a journalist who cannot even bother to do his background information was not high on their list of priorities.

And finally, oh the gentrification! While it's true that UCSD is getting a Starbucks, the other two eateries they are adding this year are Taco Villa and Lemongrass. Are those chain restaurants or small owned businesses?

This article is "bullshit".

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Josh_Kenchel Dec. 12, 2014 @ 2:21 p.m.

Dear RossF,

The opinion that UCAB is relatively unknown is mine; Ken Leighton simply quoted me.

I would be willing to bet money that fewer than half of UCSD students have heard of UCAB, and of those, fewer than one quarter know what UCAB does. Of those, smaller and smaller fractions are aware of what UCAB will be deciding at any given meeting, those meeting times and locations, etc. Yes, all of that information is public, and UCAB meetings are public, but there is a reason why very few people saw this decision coming: hardly anyone outside of UCAB knew that Porter's Pub was in danger. I do not mean to suggest that this issue was intentionally hidden by UCAB, but I do believe that if UCAB was more prominent, somebody would have caught wind and drawn public support for Porter's Pub before UCAB made their decision.

With regard to your comment about gentrification: again, I do not mean to suggest that there is an active conspiracy to gentrify UCSD. However, there seems to be a trend at UCSD toward making all of the campus spaces more efficient and more profitable. I think that's a great goal, but it does come with the risk of losing the esoteric character that institutions like Porter's Pub offer. It's an inherent trade-off in development. Perhaps the UCSD community will decide that we prefer efficiency/profitability over character. That's fine, as long as it's a decision that is made openly and with input from all the stakeholders.

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stepshep Dec. 13, 2014 @ 1:04 a.m.

Dude, let's be real. Fewer than half of students even know where Porter's is. I've been involved with 3 different events there and I almost always get blank stares when I even try to say it's in the Original/Old Student Center complex, by the General Store and the LGBT resource center. Most people don't even know who the AS president is, what AS votes on weekly, or where those meetings are held. Lack of awareness from students is hardly a UCAB specific problem...

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Josh_Kenchel Dec. 13, 2014 @ 1:12 a.m.

I didn't say that it was. I agree with you.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 11:41 a.m.

To RossF whoever you are:

This is from the UCAB http://ucab.ucsd.edu/Files/PortersRFP.pdf It explains their concern of ratio of food to alcohol.

The statement that the UCAB and its meetings are secretive is from Josh Kenchel who was at AS meetings and who is now a UCSD grad student who follows the plight of the co-ops because that was his function when he was on the AS last year. Tell us, RossF, who are you and how do you know anything about this?

I sent an email to UCAB and never heard anything back. I would still like to hear from them. Since you might have some connection, how about you tell them we would still like to hear from them. UCAB like the AS President like Ratcliff did not bother to respond in any way. This conversation you are beginning is surely constructive, but its too bad the people who matter did not engage as you have done anonymously.

RossF, your comments are interesting. Why be anonymous?

Thank you Ken Leighton

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ClaireManiti Dec. 12, 2014 @ 3:50 p.m.

Hello Ken,

I am the chair of UCAB. I never saw an email from you, but I just to be sure that the email you reached out to was correct. My email address is online, here: (http://ucab.ucsd.edu/UCABContacts.aspx).

I would be more than happy to talk to you about the article, and the decision not to renew the lease for Porter's Pub.

Just a note: The article says that " A UCAB statement says that the reason UCSD should seek a new tenant is because Porter’s Pub is selling too much food in relation to its beer sales." This is not correct. The official statement is online, here:(http://ucab.ucsd.edu/Files/PortersRFP.pdf).

Porter's Pub is a pub, meant to serve food and alcohol, and not a bar. They have a Type 41 alcohol license. In order to fulfill the pub concept and maintain their Type 41 alcohol license, food sales must be equal to or larger than alcohol sales. This has not been the case for years, and this concern was one factor which was considered by UCAB in its decision not to renew the lease.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 5:51 p.m.

Questions were sent again to you. Thank you.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 12:23 p.m.

Hey RossF: I was quoting from someone who was at a lot of high powered UC meetings. Were you? Please help us understand your interest and your role.

I wonder at what point the UC Board of Regents gets involved. Maybe it is the right thing for the UCSD administration to snuff out both the Che and Porters as they have existed for 34 and 23 years, respectively. And maybe it is just a coincidence these two axings are happening at the same time. But I doubt this clandestine, behind-the-scenes maneuvering would be looked upon favorably from an outside entity that is ultimately responsible for the UC administration.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 12, 2014 @ 5:18 p.m.

Hello Claire - I remember calling the main number for UCSD many times over Dec. 1 and 2 as my Verizon phone record shows. They put me through to Ratcliff's office, but said the UCAB did not have an extension (at first they didn't even know what it was). I recall sending you an email. At any rate, I will resend questions to you and we can post answers here. Thank you.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 13, 2014 @ 12:45 p.m.

Stepshep- You make a good point. But don't you think that an organization with enough power to change the use of Porter's Pub after 23 years should at least have an extension with the UCSD phone system? I think it's a real hard sell that the student body knew that the UCAB even existed. And I am told that Claire Maniti is in fact not a student but an employee of UCSD. I asked her about that in the email I sent her yesterday among things.

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Josh_Kenchel Dec. 13, 2014 @ 2:31 p.m.

Hey Ken,

Claire is a student. UCAB consists mainly of student representatives.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 14, 2014 @ 10:53 p.m.

TO Don Johnson: You seem to have the most reasonable tenor from everyone connected with UCSD who is defending the elimination of Porter's Pub. I did hear back from email from UCAB chair Claire Maniti via email, and I would like to share what she said. a subsequent list of new questions were not answered yet. Ms. Maniti has other commitments and she indicated she will answer them when she can. First, it must be made clear that the original article flip flopped the food to beer ratio. Of course the state ABC cares that each licensee sells as much or more food than alcohol. That was an obvious mistake on my part. I had the beer and food words reversed. But the fact remains that the Porter's didn't sell enough food was one of the reasons cited by UCAB for its closure. Keep in mind that the Porter's Pub owner Stephen Lawler secured his beer and wine license from the ABC and just like any business licensed by the ABC, it is up to the ABC investigators and administrators to prosecute any licensee who does not comply with its stipulations. One of the questions not answered by Ms. Maniti was why UCAB is out there policing what should be policed by the ABC.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 14, 2014 @ 10:54 p.m.

(part 2)

Porter's owner Lawler claims he had many more uses by student groups using the Porter's stage than what UCAB claimed. Ms Maniti admits that the problem may be that Lawler did not properly report or "TAP" each use (her expression). I asked if UCAB allowed Mr. Porter to respond to that serious charge of not allowing student groups to use the stage as agreed, and directly address that discrepancy. Her response: "You asked about steps which were taken to communicate with the vendor, regarding the quality of food and stage access for students. University Centers had many meetings with the vendor to address the concerns mentioned in the statement. These meetings happened several times, over several years, and all feedback from students gained from surveys were given to the vendor. The purpose of conducting secret shopper reviews is to help vendors hear feedback firsthand from students, and hopefully to improve their services in response.' I asked he why does a group as powerful as UCAN that can end a business that has been operating at UCSD for 23 years and serve (I think) a vital role to the local music scene, not have a phone number (even to accept messages) with the UCSD switchboard. Ms. Maniti responded by saying UCAN has a email. It should be made clear that Ms. Maniti is both a student AND an employee of UCSD. I asked what input Vice Chancellor Ratcliff had on UCAN meetings or with its members. No response yet. I think it is pretty well accepted that the average student does not know of UCAB. But I asked Ms. Maniti: "...did you allow the general student body (not just your selected UCAB members who staged "secret shopper" reviews) to chime in on Porter's Pub?" No answer yet.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 15, 2014 @ 10:35 a.m.

As promised, I just heard from Claire Maniti about the other questions. Asked about why the UCAB would enforce ABC food-to-alcohol sold ratio, she did not indicate that there had been any intervention on the part of ABC that Porter's Pub was violating that ratio (that according to my personal experience, does not often get enforced). But she had this to say: "Porter's Pub was brought onto UCSD in order to fulfill a very specific concept: having a restaurant that also happens to serve alcohol. From the time the request for proposals process began for the space, it was clear to all vendors who applied to lease the space that the space was a pub restaurant, focusing first and foremost on food, with alcohol available to accompany food. The ratio of gross alcohol to gross food sales is important for two reasons: it shows that the focus of the vendor is not and has not been on serving food. It is important secondly because if the ABC were to enforce their stipulations and Porter's Pub's alcohol permit were revoked, which would be possible given that the basic requirement of the license type is not met, the pub would be an alcohol-less pub whose focus is not on food. Again, you can find more information about the requirements for a Type 41 license here: https://www.abc.ca.gov/FORMS/ABC608.pdf . Asked if Porter's was told specifically about the discrepancy between how many student group meetings were held at the Porter's stage according to UCAB and the numbers that Porter's kept: "University Centers' Director and Assistant Director of Retail Operations both have regular meetings individually with vendors. These concerns over alcohol, as well as all of the other concerns listed in the official statement UCAB released were repeatedly raised, in many meetings, over the course of several years." Why no UCAN phone extension, even to collect messages? "The Board does not have a phone number-there are 17 members on the board, and paying a full time staff member to answer a phone line on behalf of a large group of people makes less sense than having a directory online where the entire board's contact information can be found. I sent that link in an earlier message."

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Ken Leighton Dec. 15, 2014 @ 10:55 a.m.

(part 2) It is perceived by many I spoke with that Vice Chancellor Gary Ratcliff (who never answers requests for comment) was involved with UCAB's actions here. In a previous article about the Che Cafe, I quoted someone closely involved that the AS President changed his mind about how to deal with the Che, changing from spearheading a resolution to support cooperation, to one where he supported such a meeting after Che Cafe evicted itself AFTER a meeting with Ratcliff. That was never denied. When asked about Mr. Ratcliff's possible intervention in Porter's Pub lease Ms. Maniti says: "Gary Ratcliff is not the UCEN Director, and has not come into our meetings to give input this quarter." I pointed the common on-campus perception that UC students have never heard of UCAB. She responded: "UCAB's meetings are public, and the UCAB meeting schedule and locations for those meetings are online (ucab.ucsd.edu). Any and all members of the public are able to come and give input. The Che Cafe Collective is a student service, and there has been considerable public input regarding the Che Cafe Facility. Porter's Pub is a vendor, and not a student service or organization. Input from members of the public was given to the Board regarding Porter's by members of the public, and student input in making decisions is critically important. The vast majority of UCAB's members are representatives, who are members of organizations across the campus. Each of the college council representatives, for instance, sit on councils of around 50 students. The Student Affirmative Action Committee representative is an active member of a committee of community organizations ranging from Queer People of Color to Kaibigang (KP). The GSA reps sit on a council of over 50 graduate students, representing departments and graduate interests across campus. These representatives relay information and opinions from their organizations to the University Centers Advisory Board." Regarding the perception by some that the Che Cafe's and Porter's end are coming at the same time is not coincidental, Ms. Maniti responded: "The reasons for moving to an RFP process for the space currently occupied by Porter's and for not funding renovations for the Che Facility are unrelated. Porter's Pub is a retail vendor, and the Che Cafe Collective is a student service. There's no connections between the two in the criteria with which they are evaluated, how their rents are set, or in the details of their leases."

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Ken Leighton Dec. 15, 2014 @ 10:56 a.m.

(part 3) Ms. Maniti says all student uses of the Porter's stage must be properly reserved through an administration approved reservation process: "Any events which happen at University Centers have to be properly documented, so that student organizations can receive funding for their events at these spaces, have insurance required by the University, and fulfill requirements of CSI, the Center for Student Involvement. If University Centers' list does not match the vendor's list, this is a major issue, because it means that the events happening at the stage room through the vendor are not being properly documented."...One wonders if it is the student groups or Porter's that is it at fault here for not filing proper paperwork.

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stepshep Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:09 p.m.

Ken. There are probably 40+ different advisory boards at UCSD. A handful of them, like UCAB, or HDH AB, or Transportation Policy have a great level on impact on students' daily lives. Can you find HDH's minutes online? Does transportation policy have a phone number? You want to talk about systemic transparency issues at a public university, fine. But let's not pretend UCAB is some ultimate bad guy. UCAB has a public schedule, relatively up-to-date minutes, rather frequent press releases, and has a board of student volunteers that disseminate information to their constituents as best they can. In this entire story, UCAB is not the problem. Try covering a topic that you actually grasp, because you obviously have no clue how UCSD works.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 17, 2014 @ 12:38 p.m.

Stepshep: The problem is that NO ONE seems to know how UCSD works. I can give you a whole raft of names of intelligent, educated, connected, vital people who are supporting the Che who will tell you that not only has the administration lied about the "safety" issue, but that there have numerous bait and switch deceptions and subterfuges about how the Che situation was handled. That there was no real way to have an open discussion, no recourse, etc. With regards to the Porter's Pub, it seems that even if this current course of action is reasonable and best for UCSD, the whole lack of transparency and openness has not helped the administration's plight or the feeling that everything is not being done on the up and up. You are calling UCAB an advisory board. Really? This is the only advisory board I ever heard of who could snuff a 23 year UCSD institution like this. Clearly Ms. Maniti is a standup, responsible leader of UCAB. She is also an employee of UCSD. Who knows who her boss is at UCSD and what strings may or may not have pulled. I just think it is clear to any reasonable person that this process was not open or transparent. And that while there seems to be issues of concern regarding Porters, it has also arrived as a significant live music showcase. If there are other issues, then it seems reasonable to ask these issues be brought out in the open. Hey Stepshep! Tell me more about all those UCAB press releases! Boy have they been productive! Anyway, the UCSD administration seems to act like the Kremlin. They are ultimately in total control and do not report to anyone, it seems. Thus allowing the common "gentrification" feeling I reported in the article.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 18, 2014 @ 3:52 a.m.

Interesting that the defender of UCSD administration is an anonymous blogger. Any more thoughts Stepshep?

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Josh_Kenchel Dec. 18, 2014 @ 12:57 p.m.

Hey Ken, If you are referring to "stepshep", I believe that is the screen name of Stephen Shepherd, who also commented above using a Facebook profile.

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Ken Leighton Dec. 18, 2014 @ 2:32 p.m.

Thanks. Stephen, is it me or does it seem like no one actually has a clue about how UCSD works? Just asking a legitimate question. With all due respect. Would like to hear back. I don't think I am the only frustrated with a lack of administration openness.

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