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SSMU forced to settle for smoothies in first-floor Shatner space

Smoothie chain Liquid Nutrition signed a lease with SSMU Friday to move into Shatner Room 108, the space previously occupied by computer store University Bytes.

But had the McGill administration not taken four months to approve tenants for the room, Liquid Nutrition very well might have been passed over for a UPS branch, according to SSMU VP Finance & Operations Imad Barake.

“We didn’t really want more food in the building,” Barake said. “We saw value in UPS.” He added, however, that he is confident the smoothies will be popular.

Once the bid from UPS was approved by SSMU Council, all that was needed to seal the deal was an approval from the University, as part of SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement with McGill. But by the time the administration got around to the approval, it was too late.

On December 20, four months after the companies had been presented for approval, the University approved both UPS and Liquid Nutrition as potential tenants, but only Liquid Nutrition’s executives still expressed interest in the space by then.

However, some students believe the room should have become club space, arguing that SSMU should prioritize space in Shatner for student initiatives rather than businesses.

“I think club space would have been better than smoothies,” said U3 student Katherine Tong. “If there are problems with club space, then that should have been a priority.”

According to Barake, rent is a large part of the Society’s income, and giving the space to a student club would mean serious financial losses for other student services. While the money from Room 108 will amount to only about one per cent of SSMU’s total budget, Barake said that many other services – such as Gert’s and Haven Books – have large revenues but lose money, so rent is the best way to make up the difference.

“The reason I like rent is because it’s guaranteed,” said Barake.

VP Clubs & Services Marcelle Kosman, in an effort to allow the room to be used for club space, introduced a motion at a SSMU Council meeting in October for a referendum to increase the SSMU fee by $1 a semester to compensate for the loss of the room revenue. The motion resulted in an 11-11 tie vote, which meant the motion failed, according to Council’s rules of procedure.

Ultimately, Barake argued that tenants like Liquid Nutrition are more beneficial for students than clubs that occupy space rent-free, as the money collected from the businesses can go to other student endeavours.

“Rent allows us to function over the long term,” he said, adding that SSMU will require Liquid Nutrition to participate in the Society’s sustainability programs and is much easier to manage.

“We don’t need anyone to manage the finances for renters. It’s just cheques every month.”

– with files from Nicholas Smith