Q: Why do things have to change?
A: Late last spring our current treasurer learned that the UHouse had three different UBI numbers – one associated with having Shanna as an employee, and two others that people had just created along the way. As he was fixing those issues, it sparked inquiry as to ‘what our business was’ and that is what began what we like to call the ‘unraveling of the sweater’.
After extensive exploration, the board confirmed what we as members all knew – the regularly provided food service and bar service was always ‘legally murky’ at best. The kitchen is not up to code, we were not properly collecting taxes, and although there were certainly some elements that followed legal standards – if the UHouse were to be audited, or sued by someone for an accident that happened on our grounds, not only would the UHouse undergo a lot of issues – but as board members we all ran the chance of being personally liable as well.
While all the board members love the house – we felt it was important to get the house to a position where it operated within legal parameters.
Q: Why couldn't you just leave the house as is?
A: While the discussion came up of “wouldn’t they just go after PLU” or “can we simply ignore this” since the house is technically independently run, the main liability landed on the board (and we don’t want to open PLU to that liability either). Also, as board members, once we knew this information we could no longer claim reasonable deniability which opened us all up to personal liability.
We spent the summer and fall trying to figure out legal fixes. “Could we bring the house up to code, could we look at different avenues of food service, could we even continue or should we just sell the house, etc.?”. We sought member feedback and spoke with the university about these issues and possible solutions as well. With everything going on at the University level, COVID-19, the flood in the UHouse bathroom and basement, and the other issues that followed – this was just a mix of bad timing overall.
As a board, we unanimously agreed that the liability was too much – and the right and ethical decision was to to get the house in a position to operate legally and cease all activity until we discovered safe and legal ways to operate.
Q: Are you even trying to save the house?
A: Our hope with our solution is to still keep the house running and keep intact the elements of what we found to be most important based on member feedback:
- a separate space off campus just for faculty and staff to gather and socialize,
- lunch service,
- and social events.
While we have been able to figure out internal solutions to the Friday Night Social issue, lunch has been the sticking point which is what we’ve been seeking member feedback about.
Our true goal and intention is to absolutely save the house, and figure out how to keep being that place for faculty and staff to socialize and gather – legally.
Q: What is happening with the lunch service?
A: We can no longer offer the food services at the same level as before the recent closure of the house. The kitchen is not up to code and a renovation would likely cost upwards of $50,000. However, we are excited about a partnership with Campus Restaurants to provide food delivery services.
Beginning Fall 2021, the goal will be to implement a delivery service to the UHouse during key lunch hours. Food can be ordered through the GET app from any campus restaurant. The board will arrange trial drop off times beginning in the fall – starting with one or two main delivery times based on member feedback.
A large portion of feedback we received in the fall revolved around the ‘cheap’ lunch service and the ability to ‘walk over on the fly’ and pick something up quickly. While we cannot replicate the ‘on the fly’ option, we want to make sure our membership knows that the regular dues everyone paid (including those who did not use the lunch service) subsidized the ‘cheap’ lunch service for those who did use that service.
The Social Hours were usually revenue neutral and covered themselves. Monthly dues allowed us to maintain the house and then subsidize the lunch service. Our hope is lowering dues to an amount we feel can cover the minimum expenses of owning and maintaining the house, and offering the delivery service, so that members can still treat the UHouse as a place to gather and eat lunch together – you’ll just need to order ahead!
Q: What is happening with the Friday Social Hours?
A: As a private club, we are able to purchase a special (and affordable) private business liquor license to sell beer and wine only (no hard spirits – although there are more expensive licenses that can be purchased down the road if that need increases). Therefore, we believe we will be able to maintain Friday Social Hour!
We are still working on the legal details with this license, which may impact our ‘donation’ based system, however, details will come as soon as we know more.
Q: What is happening with the house in general? Will we still be able to gather there?
A: Yes! We are looking at some sort of swipe or keypad access to the house which will allow members more access to the spaces. This will likely change how we use the house (in terms of clean up and maintenance) but details will come over the summer on this.
The bar has almost fully returned to its original state pre-flood. There have even been some upgrades! If you have ever had to deal with an insurance company, you’ll know that they rarely give you enough to cover the costs. The cost of the repairs, in addition to the insurance recovery, will essentially consume all of the financial resources that we have. In order to put ourselves back on a sustainable financial footing, we are starting a GoFundMe account to collect donations to finish the process and get the house to a usable state.
Although the kitchen can no longer serve as a working kitchen, you and your colleagues are welcome to bring food in for staff meetings, lunches, etc., if desired. We just cannot serve prepared food at this time.
Q: What is your timeline for reopening?
A: Our hope is to begin some summer outdoor specials this spring through summer. Until we procure the liquor license, our events will be ‘BYOB’ (Bring your own beverages), but once it is safe to gather outdoors in small groups, we will try to do so!
We will also continue some online happy hours, potential ‘lunchtime talks’, and more as we think of ideas and events!
Q: What will dues be and why are you collecting them now?
A: As a board, we felt it was important to not collect dues if we were not offering a service, and while we still won’t be able to offer a lot in the spring, we are now in a financial position where we need to collect dues again to pay for the ongoing ownership and maintenance expenses of the house and to fully reopen in the fall as we imagine.
Monthly dues will be reduced to $10 per month and begin in April, 2021.
We will also be implementing a fundraising element in addition to dues to help with special projects likely twice per year (fall and spring). This will begin with our goal of $7,500 for this spring to help us get through summer. This money, in addition to dues, will go towards finishing paying for the repair of the damage in the basement due to the flood, painting the interiors of the house (which the board does on our own time, this is just for supplies) and other various projects.
Please help us reach our goal by donating to our GoFundMe Page 🙂
*It is important to note that board members do not receive any compensation for any of our work – so this money is going directly to the house and its maintenance.*
Q: What should I do if I had an owing balance on my lunch tab prior to the closure?
A: Any owing balance you may have will not be collected while we are closed, however, if you would like to make a donation to the UHouse you are welcome to do so. Please note, once we are reopened, any balance you may have owed may be collected at that time, if necessary.