Hetherington House has closed its doors for business after the Hetherington Research Club (HRC) Committee of Management (CoM) were told that any continued trading would be illegal.
After 54 years, Scotland’s only club dedicated to postgraduate, mature and international students ceased trading on February 19, after a period of operating on a day-to-day basis whilst its finances were being investigated.
The results of this investigation revealed that the Club could no longer operate as a business legally, due to its debts.
Treasurer and Convenor at the CoM, Desmond McKenna confirmed to Guardian that a meeting would be held for general members in the next fortnight to explain the situation.
Although unable to answer any specific questions relating to the Club’s accounts, McKenna did admit that the decision to close the business was taken for monetary reasons.
He said: “It was basically a financial decision and to keep us within the confines of the law.
“If you’ve got a business and you’ve run up a certain amount of debt with your creditors and you don’t have enough money to pay […] you’re actually trading illegally. Every time you open your door you’re incurring more and more debt […] so that’s why the club shut.”
McKenna was unable to confirm the amount of money currently owed by the Club to its creditors.
In a statement from the HRC’s staff representative, Eileen Doyle, it is claimed that the total debt is around £50,000.
“Staff were devastated to be told they had been made redundant and had to vacate the building.
Despite having to mortgage, rent, maintenance costs or council tax to pay, apparently the Club has been running at a loss for several years.
“The deficit is now somewhere in the region of £50,000 and the University and the Committee took the decision to close the club with immediate effect.
“The staff put forward a proposal to run the club as a co-operative, saving management costs apparently in the region of £40,000, but this was rejected by the University.”
Three full-time and twenty part-time members of staff have been made redundant as a result of the HRC closure.
A statement released by the CoM confirms that the business is no longer viable but that the HRC remains as an “entity”.
“Regrettably, the business is no longer viable and cannot continue in its current form. Therefore, after a period of consultation, the committee voted to wind down the business and asked for the assistance of the University in order that this be done in an appropriate manner.
“The HRC remains as an entity and the CoM will be meeting in order to discuss how this will continue in the future.”
For many members, the club provided more than simply somewhere to study or to drink.
Postgradate student Mark West explained: “I’ve been a postgraduate for a year and half and it’s a place we all go to […] It’s a great space for a postgraduate community — we’re not just lots of individuals working on our own. The Research Club allowed people a space that wasn’t just a study space or a bar.”
West also commented on the lack of communication between the CoM and club members.
“I’m in there two to three times a week and there was nothing posted on the notice board about this. Clearly [the CoM] could have been more communicative. Clearly they knew something might happen before [it closed]”
A University spokesman said: “HRC is an independent organisation, whom the University has supported with rent-free accommodation and an annual grant. It has been experiencing trading difficulties and the Club’s Management Committee felt it had no option but to cease trading.
“The University regrets the loss of the facility and senior managers will be considering the impact this will have on social facilities for postgraduate students.”