Central New York Pub with Self-Proclaimed ‘Best Chicken Fingers on Earth’ Isn’t Coming to UAlbany
The restaurant area under construction in the Campus Center is expected to be completed by January, but it will not be Tully’s Good Times due to currently unknown disagreements between the restaurant and Sodexo which surfaced last week.
Sodexo, the food service conglomerate which University Auxiliary Services contracts for retail and student dining, had planned since 2015 that Tully’s would run a sports-pub-style, sit-down restaurant which served alcohol on campus. Tully’s currently partners with Sodexo in an on-campus restaurant at SUNY Binghamton.
“They couldn’t come to a middle ground in terms of establishing a partnership,” said UAS Executive Director Stephen Pearse. “It’s extremely unfortunate because we all wanted Tully’s to be here.”
Sodexo spoke to Pearse last week about the problems with the partnership, but Pearse did not give details to The ASP in an effort to be sensitive to Sodexo and Tully’s’ private conversations. UAlbany’s Sodexo leadership did not provide a comment to The ASP, instead directing this reporter back to Stephen Pearse for information. Tully’s leadership did not return The ASP’s calls for comment.
In an email obtained by The ASP, Pearse said to UAS board members,: “This is really in the 11th hour, but things like this happen occasionally. Trying to partner with outside vendors can be extremely challenging. We are fortunate that Cusato’s is the exception, not the rule.”
The area Tully’s was meant to occupy will continue to be constructed and outfitted, and a sports pub boasting 39 televisions is hoped to open January of next year. Sodexo is exploring multiple options to determine who will run the business, with a preference towards national brands that already have Sodexo partnerships.
UAS’ Board of Directors had long envisioned creating an area which would feel “upscale” to students and faculty. Pearse confirmed that the restaurant will serve wine and beer. As recorded in board minutes and university assessments, the cost of obtaining and hosting events with alcohol on campus was an irritant to several academic departments.
Minutes from a UAS Board meeting in March noted, “The Board discussed the benefits and disadvantages of having a location that serves wine and beer and the consensus of the Board is that it is time to have something like this on campus. There are different departments that bring groups on campus that would appreciate having this option available without having to go through UAlbany Catering.”
In a February assessment of Finance and Administration contracted out to Campus Strategies, LLC, catering issues were also emphasized. “Sodexho Catering received major and consistent criticism,” the document reads.
“We just wanted to offer a place where somebody could go and have a casual beer with a meal, and be mature about it,” said Pearse. “It’s not a Rathskellers; it’s not a place to go to and pound pitchers, because there aren’t going to be pitchers.”
Pearse said that the establishment would not ‘promote’ alcohol with practices likes beer specials or happy hours. He also noted that the restaurant’s seating area is designed for groups to reserve, such as faculty or alumni who may want to entertain guests or hold receptions.
Sodexo has not yet applied for a New York liquor license, according to Michael Ramella, Associate Executive Director of Operations for UAS. Ramella said the wait for such a license takes 45 days, though sources point to the process taking anywhere from two to six months.
Comfort food like chicken tenders and specialty burgers are hoped to be served at the new restaurant when it opens in January. Stephen Pearse indicated that chicken tenders may be taken off Fountain Grill’s menu to encourage uniqueness in the Campus Center.