Student Bars and Shops

Falmer House was the first building to be completed when the campus opened in October 1962. It held eveything from the Library, Bookshop, Common Room, and of course catering outlets. The main Refectory was in Falmer House (now called Mandela Hall) until the “New Refectory” (Bramber House) opened in 1968.

No record has been found of when the first Students Union-run bar was started, but certainly by the early 1970s, while the University's catering service was still running the main Falmer Bar and the top-floor Snack Bar, the Students' Union had both the Crypt nightclub with its “back bar” and the Concert Bar. The Concert Bar was the long narrow bar on the middle floor of Falmer House which provided the bar service for events in Mandela Hall. That bar was decommissioned in [date to be discovered] when that part of Falmer House was remodelled to provide disabled toilets and a lift, and the Activities Centre expanded to something like its present size. By that time of course, live bands performing in the Old Refec/Mandela were largely a thing of history.

At the other end of campus, in 1971 the students living in Park Village (especially postgrads and families who were resident 12 months of the year) decided they needed some social facilities in their area of campus. Although the New Refectory had been open by then and the Marble Bar and Grapevine existed there, they were only open during the day and there was precious little available out of hours and at weekends.

The PVTA (Park Village Tenants Association) expanded to form USTA (University of Sussex Tenants' Association) and an early move was to set up the USTA Co-operative. This enterprise would visit a cash and carry outlet in Brighton or Lewes, buy simple foodstuffs in bulk (rice, flour, eggs, etc) and sell them retail over the counter from one of the small rooms in the PV Social Centre. After a few months the Co-op diversified by launching a Coffee Bar in the same building, and some time later the first student-run Bar, also in Park Village.

All of these enterprises were run by the students themselves on a volunteer/co-operative basis. This state of affairs was to continue throughout the 1970s and into the 80s by which time there were three student bars (PV, York House and East Slope) all managed by student committees with volunteer student licensees and bar helpers and the only paid member of staff being an administrator/bookkeeper. The role of the Students' Union was largely confined to providing regular financial bail-outs when the student committees had drunk the profits.

Eventually the three USTA bars became part of the Union's commercial empire, so that the bars and Student Co-op in the residential area joined the Union stationery shop, Falmer Concert Bar and Crypt nightclub to form the snappily-named Sussex University Students' Union Services Limited.

[to be continued]