At long last a representative of the Vilnius Archdiocese decided to meet with the citizens of the Old Town community….. after weeks of ignoring our July 3rd request for a meeting – to discuss the building reconstruction project on the ISM University campus, located at Arkliu 18, in the historic Vilnius Old Town.
Less than 24 hours after our August 2, 2012 meeting with ISM University’s Dr. Vilius Kontrimas regarding this construction project, Linas S, a member of the Old Town Citizens Association, received a phone call from Dr. Kontrimas requesting a meeting of the Old Town community with a representative of the Vilnius Archdiocese.
On August 6th we met with Dr. Kontrimas of ISM, and the representative of the Vilnius Archdiocese, Darius Krukonis. Our aim was to find out the Church’s plans for this building which was under reconstruction on the ISM University campus. Did they really intend to convert this structure into a beer pub ?
Documents which the Archdiocese had filed regarding this construction listed the bulding as an ‘Administrative building’. This label was shown on the construction permits and architectural drawings which had been shown to us. They had not applied for construction permits designating that this building would become a beer pub or restaurant.
Instead of designing the building to become a student center and cafeteria which would benefitial to ISM students, the Church’s plans for this structure was to maximize the Archdiocese profits and lease the space to a beer pub or bar which would serve alcohol on the ISM campus. The Archdiocese plan was to bring alcohol into the ISM campus!
Rasa Baškienė, a Vilnius municipal councilor; Asta Baškauskaitė and Sakalas Gorodeckis , elected neighborhood ‘seniunaičiai’ representatives; Old Town citizens association members and neighborhood residents attended the August 6th meeting. We were all very concerned by the Church’s plans to sell alcohol in the building which the Archdiocese was renovating on the ISM University campus.
Darius Krukonis, the Archdiocese representative, said that they did indeed plan to lease the building to a brewery-bar-cafe and were actively pursuing possible tenants…. Mr. Krukonis spoke about the beer pub & brewery ‘Avilys‘ as a fine example of an ideal tenant for the building.
Mr. Krukonis stated that their ‘business plan’ needed to earn maximum profits for the Archdiocese and therefore their planned beer pub would attract not only ISM students but also the general public. Darius Krukonis stressed that the Church did not want this building to house a student cafeteria or canteen….. Yet he also stated that in 2005 on behalf of the Archdiocese, he had ‘promised’ ISM University that they would provide space within the ISM campus for a student cafeteria…. Apparently the Archdiocese promise was now being forgotten in their quest for maximum profits.
The Church’s priority had now become their commercial ‘business plan’ venture. Mr. Krukonis proudly stated that the Archdiocese knew how to make money and closely observed the flow of money. He emphasized that they were seeking maximum profits and therefore were seeking tenants who would pay the Church the highest price to lease this bulding. He was very proud of the fact that the Archdiocese had so many profitable leases in the OldTown and that all the premises sold alcohol – including the ‘Dione’ ice cream shop on Pilies street.
We were shocked to hear that earning maximum profit was so much more important to the Archdiocese than the the wellness and needs of ISM University students. While the Church preaches loudly about their supposed concern for youth, their actions now show their true intentions to bring alcohol into a university campus territory.
During the meeting we asked Mr. Krukonis why the Archdiocese did not limit or restrict the sale of alcohol when leasing property which belongs to the Church – knowing that alcoholism is such a serious problem in Lithuania. The ‘Dione’ ice cream shop could have been leased with a clause noting that alcohol should not be sold on the premises. This would have prompted a family restaurant atmosphere. Does alcohol need to be served in each and every cafe and ice cream shop ?
Mr. Krukonis replied to our question by explaining that a cafe which did not serve alcohol would not be profitable. Therefore, since the Archdiocese is seeking to earn maximum profits on all their real estate leases, they always seek tenants who are willing to pay the highest price. Those tenants are establishments which serve alcohol.
ISM once again expressed their neutral position regarding alcohol being sold on the ISM campus. Vilius Kontrimas mentioned that he hoped alcohol would be used ‘rationaly’….. leaving us to wonder how a university could justify and encourage alcohol consumption on campus as being ‘rational’….
Mr. Krukonis repeatedly stated that the Archdiocese plans for this building on the ISM campus were not any business of the community at large. He said that this project was the Church’s commercial business venture with their goal being maximum profits and nothing less.
We asked Mr. Krukonis why this building has been designated as an ‘Administrative building’ in documents which have been filed for construction permits if their intention had always been to convert the structure into a beer bar. He replied that if a potential tenant would seek to lease the building as office space, and pay the same steep rental rates which a beer pub is willing to pay, then they would gladly lease the space as office space. Their policy is – the highest bidder gets the space.
The number of establishments selling alcohol in the Vilnius Old Town is abundant. Numerous cafes, bars and pubs are located a few steps beyond the ISM University campus. Given this abundance of alcohol in the neighborhood, why does the Archdiocese have such a great desire to bring alcohol onto the ISM University campus? Why does the Church seek to encourage the use of alcohol among students?
We exited the meeting shocked – having learned that the Archdiocese based their decisions solely on their pursuit of earning maximum profits.
During the meeting we firmly stated our position against the sale of alcohol on the ISM University campus. We will remain strong in our principles and will seek the support of our community and nation on this serious matter – which concerns the well being of students and their future.