November 6, 2012. We attended the “informational meeting“ with had been called by the Vilnius Archdiocese and ISM University administrators. This was the third meeting with the Old Town community regarding the Church’s plans for the building which was being reconstructed on the ISM University campus. Meetings with the Archdiocese were prompted by the Old Town community’s concern and dismay regarding the Church’s plans to promote the sale of alcohol on the ISM University campus.
The Vilnius Archdiocese was represented by its lawyers, Mr Darius Krukonis and Lidija Rimaitė and their future tenants – Mr Alexander Pogrebnojus and his associate Eglė.
Rasa Baškienė, a Vilnius municipal councilor; Asta Baškauskaitė and Sakalas Gorodeckis – elected neighborhood ‘Seniunaičiai’ representatives; elected Old Town VBT committee members; Old Town citizens association members and neighborhood residents attended the November 6th meeting.
We were all very concerned by the Church’s plans to sell alcohol in the building which the Archdiocese was reconstructing on the ISM University campus.
During all of the previous meetings we had clearly stated our position against the sale of alcohol on the ISM campus. We came to this meeting with the sincere hope that the Archdiocese had changed their plans and had realized that the sale of alcohol on a university campus was wrong.
Unfortunately we quickly learned that nothing had changed……
The meeting began with a colorful presentation by Alexander Pogrebnojus regarding his concept of a restaurant bar. He explained that the menu would feature drinks and entrees which writers of years gone by had favored… the walls would be decorated with books and spoons of famous people. The Archdiocese administrator, Darius Krukonis, noted that this ‘related to educaton….’
We then asked the question, which we had asked in all the previous meetings = > would alcohol be sold there ? Mr Pogrebnojus and Mr Krukonis replied that without a doubt alcohol would indeed be sold. Mr Pogrebnojus emphasized that the premium entree and drink prices would not appeal to students. His concept was to cater to tourists and the general public – not to ISM students
It was not obvious that the Archdiocese bar-cafe project was being planned without focusing on the needs of ISM University students – even though the building stands on the ISM University campus. The Archdiocese intentions were profit driven from day one. Thus the sale of alcohol was a key part of their business plan.
The Vilnius Archdiocese spokesman, Mr Krukonis explained that according to the Church’s ‘business plan’ they needed to rent the premises at 42-44 litas/ m2. Only tenants, which sell alcohol would be able to pay these steep rates……. Mr. Krukonis made it sound as though they had been forced into this situation…. Yet prior to the renovation, this building had been a storage building. It is crystal clear that when the Vilnius Archdiocese began this reconstruction project they had only one thing in mind – MONEY.
We repeated our firm position against the sale of alcohol on the ISM University campus. The Archdiocese attorney, Mr. Krukonis, argued that this building was not on the ISM University campus. This was a most unusual argument in an effort to justify the sale of alcohol on university premises ….. We insisted that he take a closer look at the real estate documentation – which clearly demarcates and outlines this campus territory. However Mr. Krukonis continued to argue and insist that he saw there was nothing wrong with their plan to promote the sale of alcohol on the ISM University campus….. We were disgusted hearing his tone of voice and ardent efforts to justify the Church’s business venture, which was based on the sale of alcohol within a university campus territory.
Mr. Vilnius Kontrimas spoke on behalf of the ISM University administration. He simply said that their hope was that the students would not abuse alcohol. Alexander Pogrebnojus replied that he was considering asking his bartenders not to sell alcohol to students….. When we asked Mr. Pogrebnojus how he planned to implement this idea we received no reply. We all very well know that once an alcohol permit is issued there are no restrictions based upon ‘face control’….
M,r Krukonis repeated the same points which he had made during the August 6th meeting regarding this matter. He emphasized that the Archdiocese’ priority was their profitable ‘business plan’ – therefore they had decided to forgo their earlier promises of establishing a cafeteria for ISM University students.
Even though we firmly repeated our strong position against the sale of alcohol on the ISM campus, the meeting ended with Church‘s representatives saying they would not back down. They insisted that they would continue their plan to build a bar-cafe on the ISM University campus and that they would undoubtedly sell alcohol.
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?
Why has a profitable „business plan“ become the Church‘s priority rather than student well-being?
The ideal solution would be for the Archdiocese to establish a student center with a cafeteria in this newly renovated building on the ISM University campus.
Has the Church forgotten its mission and purpose ? The Church should be making an effort to help young people by creating an environment where students could actively and creatively engage in social, cultural, intellectual, and civic activities.
We recall that as a young priest Gintaras Grusas – now the Archbishop of Vilnius – had been been actively involved in youth activities and the ‘Ateitininkai’ community in Lithuania. Has his attitude and outlook toward young people changed ? Have his priorities also shifted and become focused on the Church’s profitable business plans?