“Bring Back the Gal” petition aims to bring The Gallery home

A petition has been started to bring the Gallery into the new SUB.

“I remember hearing someone say once that, ‘If the SUB was the home for students, then The Gallery was the living room,’ and I really think that’s very true,” said Kevin Doering, third-year economics student and AMS Clubs Administrator. He is also the man behind Bring Back The Gallery, a petition which aims to bring about an AMS referendum on re-opening The Gallery Lounge (better known as the Gal), in the new SUB.

The Bring Back The Gallery website lists the unique aspects of the old lounge that motivate the movement to restore it -- the joint’s affordable food and drinks, its time-honoured place in campus culture and its priority on serving students rather than generating profit.

Ava Nasiri, AMS Vice President Administration, offered the AMS’s unstable financial situation as a rationale for the closure of The Gallery Lounge.

The deterioration of the old SUB caused the society to lose more and more revenue, she said.

According to Nasiri, while planning the new SUB, the AMS realized that a business model like The Perch could provide more revenue which would help the AMS improve student services.

Much of the programming previously hosted in The Gallery Lounge will shift over to the Pit Pub and other spaces in The Nest, according to Nasiri. However, these adjustments don’t fill the void left in the new student hub by the Gal according to the movement’s website.

“And that's why we're asking you to keep the dream alive and bring us back our Gallery,” reads an online letter to the AMS.

In order to accomplish a revival of The Gallery Lounge, Doering must collect 1,000 or more student signatures on a petition. Once those signatures are submitted to the AMS, a formal referendum question can be proposed and voting can occur within 10 to 30 days. Finally, a majority vote of “yes” with quorum (eight per cent of eligible voters) would be needed for the referendum to officially pass and be recognized as a formal directive for the AMS, Nasiri said.

Doering is still in the early stages of planning the movement. “I think it’s really important, if The Gallery is to be brought back, that it isn’t just one student or a couple of students who decide in what form that’s going to be. So I’d really love to get more student opinions on what they’d like to see in terms of the spirit of The Gallery and what’s most important to them if The Gallery is brought back before we finalize the referendum question and start collecting signatures.”

In addition to gathering student input, Doering is starting to reach out to potential endorsers across campus -- organizations that would have an interest in The Gallery’s return.

“I think the most difficult part right now has been formatting the referendum question in a way that leaves the AMS leeway in terms of how they want to bring back The Gallery,” said Doering on the current stage of his campaign.

Nasiri is empathetic towards students' emotional attachment to the Gallery.

“I’m pretty sure I left part of my soul in that grungy old paradise,” said Nasiri. “But I think we can also give The Nest a chance.”

What made The Gallery so special, according to Nasiri, was the social atmosphere created by the students. “Maybe with a little bit of adjustment, I think that can be recreated. Obviously never the same … but I think what made The Gallery The Gallery was really the way we loved it.”

Several petition-initiated referendums successfully passed in 2014. Examples include motions to construct an AMS microbrewery, push UBC to divest from fossil fuels and advocate for lower tuition rates.

“My plan as of now is to put forward the petition so that it would be run as a referendum question in the AMS general election in March,” said Doering.