51 Main To Remain Open

Thanks for the many thoughtful replies to my call for input on 51 Main.  I have continued to think about these comments and 51 Main’s evolving role in our community. It is clear that 51 Main provides an important social outlet for students and gathering place for faculty, staff, and townspeople. More than a bar or restaurant, the venue has become a catalyst for a variety of cultural and artistic activities, which I think is good for both the College and our town.  It’s worth noting that during the past year 51 Main has reduced its monthly deficits by more than 75%—a significant achievement for a new enterprise in such a short period of time.  These financial gains come close to meeting the expectations of the BOC recommendation that I accepted just over a year ago.

Given these developments, plus the fact that 51 Main’s operating deficits have been covered and will continue to be funded if needed by a generous donor for up to three years, I have decided that 51 Main should remain open.  We will continue to push for more financial accountability so the business can pay for itself without the support of a donor, and we will review the venue’s status on a regular basis, as we do with the Grille, the Snow Bowl, and our other auxiliary operations.  Meanwhile, I hope many of you will take advantage of what such a large number of blog posters (plus many who sent e-mails to me) have cited as such a valuable addition to the town and College.

9 comments

Sarah Franco '08

Sarah Franco '08’s avatar

Thank you, Ron, for deciding to keep 51 Main open. You are correct in saying that 51 Main provides value, both socially and culturally, to our town. I am very happy that I will be able to continue to visit 51 Main regularly, in addition to other favorite establishments, such as the Storm Cafe, Two Brothers, and Carol’s Hungry Mind.

Thank you, Mr. Liebowitz, for recognizing the value and potential of 51 Main as a wonderful meeting place and restaurant for the College community and the town’s people (including those of us from the larger region). It’s a great addition to downtown. The staff are always welcoming and it’s a pleasure to enjoy the company of friends in this lovely space. It has also been a treat to hear talks given from time to time by the College’s professors and others. The donor who is helping to underwrite 51 Main has made a truly innovative and refreshing contribution to the college and town. A big thank you to this generous individual.

Peter Hamlin '73 Music Dept. Chair

Peter Hamlin '73 Music Dept. Chair’s avatar

Hi, Ron — The Winter Term Motown class performance at 51 Main was a blast and there was a very large and mixed audience.

I’ve felt that 51 Main plays a role that no other space on campus plays, and it’s an exciting and evolving one. As with the Motown class and other examples I could give, it’s also a very successful venue for some course presentations.

51 Main is a very nice addition to the options for social life, interaction, and performance at Middlebury. I’m glad you’ve given it a little more time to develop.

Elise Shanbacker '08

Elise Shanbacker '08’s avatar

Not to mention a gathering place for alums who aren’t quite at home at the grille anymore but want to keep a connection to the college. I’m glad 51 will stay open and hope that it and all the businesses in town will weather the recession.

Brad Mintener, Class of 1961

Brad Mintener, Class of 1961’s avatar

Keep 51 Main alive and well. Town & Gown coming together is even more crucial today than in the past. One of the Midd characteristics I value is the close tie and interfacing with the town by the campus and the campus by the town. In fact, when talking to St. Lawrence University officials and parents here in Canton, NY, I use Midd as an example of what a campus and community should look like, act and be. For years I would talk about and brag about this Midd feature when arguing against the SLU bookstore as a gift store competing so heavily with downtown Canton merchants. Stores in Canton are empty, not just because of the flailing economy. The Midd bookstore manager once told me at a reunion years ago “that we do all we can not to hurt the downtown businesses,” thus no jewelry, Christmas decorations, women’s handbags etc. to compete with downtown like is hurting Canton. Keep up the great work

Dear President Liebowitz,

My name is Daniel Chan. I am a junior Feb.

Reading the comments from Middlebury Alumni, I see a great benefit in keeping 51 Main alive. It really is a venue on campus where Alumni can feel comfortable and may relax at their Alma Mater. But I hope not to sound dismissive when I say that the majority of the student body is rather indifferent about the venue. If it is not cannibalizing the funds required for staff wages, school upkeep and most importantly (at least to us) financial aid, then 51 Main could stay open, and probably should given the amount of investment put into it, but to to most students, it doesn’t matter too much.

I have two things to add then, firstly about 51 Main’s operations and secondly about the campus atmosphere.

As 51 Main is staying open, I see that it really must reach out to the student community. Currently, there is next to no marketing to attract students down to the venue. Moreover, students’ opinions of the place and its activities is sometimes negative, saying that the activities are perhaps too eclectic and uninteresting, or perhaps bad. I think that getting some students on board to make the venue more interesting for students, that is providing better activities, providing affordable and desirable food options and marketing the 51 Main’s attractiveness, might not only help budget constraints, but the social life on campus.

To address the college social life in particular, I would like to say that the activities are still very much centered around alcohol, and often times in very negative way. On November 2nd you quoted students opinions, about the reasons for creating 51 Main alive, that they were tired of the “limited, predictable, “the same old same old,” dominated by social house or smaller suite parties that had at or very near their center of fun beer and alcohol.” Although social houses are much less of an issue on campus, unfortunately boring alcohol-centered parties are still the norm of the weekends, and it also may not come as a surprise to you, but crime, vandalism, and drug problems are also associated with some social spheres on campus.
I am not sure what the solution to this is, but I know that this is a serious problem, and is definitely related to why some people are unhappy at Middlebury and feel neglected by the school community, and why many have left because they felt unwelcomed (of course others left because Middlebury is in the middle of “beautiful green pastures”). Perhaps two things might help though. Admissions could possibly screen students that they might consider as possible alcohol abusers (especially concentrated in the student athletics department). A question in the interview would do it, or a yes or no question on the application might do. Also, I would like to let you know that some students are trying to promote positive party activities like Potluck Clubs and Movie Parties. A few friends and I will be applying for a Potluck Superblock, which, unlike some Superblocks around now, actually has a goal, to host and potlucks for students. The immense support that we have received for this initiative from students and from faculty and staff has really encouraged us to create this Superblock. It shows that while some students are superficially happy with the alcohol “black-out” culture, at the end of the day, they do end up empty, and there is a true desire for positive social activities, perhaps held at 51 Main, or even hopefully the Potluck Superblock.

Sincerely,
Daniel ‘11.5

Dear President Liebowitz,

My name is Daniel Chan. I am a junior Feb.

Reading the comments from Middlebury Alumni, I see a great benefit in keeping 51 Main alive. It really is a venue on campus where Alumni can feel comfortable and may relax at their Alma Mater. But I hope not to sound dismissive when I say that the majority of the student body is rather indifferent about the venue. If it is not cannibalizing the funds required for staff wages, school upkeep and most importantly (at least to us) financial aid, then 51 Main could stay open, and probably should given the amount of investment put into it, but to to most students, it doesn’t matter too much.

I have two things to add then, firstly about 51 Main’s operations and secondly about the campus atmosphere.

As 51 Main is staying open, I see that it really must reach out to the student community. Currently, there is next to no marketing to attract students down to the venue. Moreover, students’ opinions of the place and its activities is sometimes negative, saying that the activities are perhaps too eclectic and uninteresting, or perhaps bad. I think that getting some students on board to make the venue more interesting for students, that is providing better activities, providing affordable and desirable food options and marketing the 51 Main’s attractiveness, might not only help budget constraints, but the social life on campus.

To address the college social life in particular, I would like to say that the activities are still very much centered around alcohol, and often times in very negative way. On November 2nd you quoted students opinions, about the reasons for creating 51 Main alive, that they were tired of the “limited, predictable, “the same old same old,” dominated by social house or smaller suite parties that had at or very near their center of fun beer and alcohol.” Although social houses are much less of an issue on campus, unfortunately boring alcohol-centered parties are still the norm of the weekends, and it also may not come as a surprise to you, but crime, vandalism, and drug problems are also associated with some social spheres on campus.

I am not sure what the solution to this is, but I know that this is a serious problem, and is definitely related to why some people are unhappy at Middlebury and feel neglected by the school community, and why many have left because they felt unwelcomed (of course others left because Middlebury is in the middle of “beautiful green pastures”). Perhaps two things might help though. Admissions could possibly screen students that they might consider as possible alcohol abusers (especially concentrated in the student athletics department). A question in the interview would do it, or a yes or no question on the application might do. Also, I would like to let you know that some students are trying to promote positive party activities like Potluck Clubs and Movie Parties. A few friends and I will be applying for a Potluck Superblock, which, unlike some Superblocks around now, actually has a goal, to host and potlucks for students. The immense support that we have received for this initiative from students and from faculty and staff has really encouraged us to create this Superblock. It shows that while some students are superficially happy with the alcohol “black-out” culture, at the end of the day, they do end up empty, and there is a true desire for positive social activities, perhaps held at 51 Main, or even hopefully the Potluck Superblock.

Sincerely,
Daniel ‘11.5

Ronald Liebowitz

Ronald Liebowitz’s avatar

Daniel: thank you for your comments; I will share and discuss them with the appropriate individuals in the administration. I would welcome a chance to discuss many of the issues with you in person. Will be in touch via e-mail.

Ron

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