Thursday, January 17, 2008

The McGill Daily: Computer Bytes

Computer store bytes the dust
Impending eviction will open up floor space in Shatner building

By Tristan LaPointe News Writer

Come March 1, Shatner's first-floor computer store University Bytes will be closed for good.
Students are already bouncing around ideas about how to use the space that University Bytes, a computer and electronics store in the Shatner building that received an official eviction notice Wednesday, must vacate by the end of the month. The move to evict the campus vendor was brought on by years of unpaid debts, late rent payments, and the store’s failure to sign a new lease, according to Dave Sunstrum, SSMU VP Finance and Operations. University Bytes is owned and managed by local Internet Service Provider Open Face, who is also responsible for paying their rent and debts. The store has been in the SSMU building since 2001, but in 2004 they acquired a new repair space in the basement for which they never paid additional rent. That difference has since accumulated a total balance of more than $8000, according to Sunstrum. “We gave them enough chances. SSMU can’t afford to have that space empty, and we can’t keep dealing with Open Face. As of now, negotiations are over,” said Sunstrum. Executives for Open Face and University Bytes refused to comment until it releases a formal statement. SSMU and University Bytes began negotiating a new lease for the next four years in October – the terms of which were agreed upon, including a repayment of the debt owed SSMU, according to Sunstrum. But after October 18, progress came to a standstill. “After [we agreed on the lease terms] I contacted Tan [Soamboonsrup, Open Face President] four times to re-sign the lease, but he was never around,” said Sunstrum. While Sunstrum would like to see the space filled by another, more reliable, rent-paying tenant, some at McGill would prefer to see the first floor storefront used as student space. The GrassRoots Association for Student Power (GRASPé), a radical McGill student group, is discussing the potential for transforming it for student use. So far, ideas are circulating about either a bookstore cooperative or a student-run café, said GRASPé member Marina Chirchikova, in an email to The Daily. But for SSMU, money may be the bottom line. “SSMU takes in over $25,000 a year from that spot. That’s money that would end up coming out of clubs and services,” said Sunstrum, adding that ideal options would either be a student-run business or another commercial enterprise. Chirchikova underlined the importance of student participation in any decisions for the new space. “Predicating from the fact that the Shatner building is student space, we think that there needs to be a consultation with students in order to decide how or for what purpose the space is to be used, with priority going to student-run projects,” continued Chirchikova. “Ultimately, students should have a chance to determine the space’s future.”

Originally Published by The McGill Daily, Monday, February 12th, 2007 Volume 96, Number 35

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