By Tess Steele
With the creation of the Domain Dollars Program, Flex Dollars, affectionately known as “Pub bucks,” have been liberated from the confines of Tiger Bay Pub and can now be enjoyed throughout the Sewanee community. This program, first piloted Easter semester of 2016, allows students to spend their Flex Dollars at various businesses, including Shenanigans, the Tavern, and even Sewanee’s beloved Stirling’s Coffee House.
Richard Berlin, Sewanee’s director of Business Services, helped develop the program, which had been a topic of discussion even before Berlin joined the university five years ago. Domain Dollars are part of a broader program to provide recreational diversity for students and to support the local economy. “Flex Dollars expand dining beyond campus proper, giving students a change in menu and venue,” said Berlin. Vendors were excited to collaborate with the university and take this evolutionary step in creating stronger relations between the Sewanee Village and campus proper.
Flex Dollars remain largely unchanged: students still have 150 dollars a semester, but under the new program these funds can be used at Stirling’s, Blue Chair Café, Blue Chair Tavern, Shenanigans, Shenanigans food truck, Cross Roads Café, and, naturally, Tiger Bay Pub. Domain Dollars are a separate account entirely, requiring students to make online deposits into the account. Domain Dollars can be used like Flex Dollars, with the addition of the following merchants: Taylor’s Mercantile, Hair Depot Salon, and Village Cleaners. Like Flex Dollars, Domain Dollars are accessible through student ID cards, with select vendors offering discounts for students using the account. While students cannot use Domain or Flex Dollars for alcohol purchases, those making deposits into these accounts can be confident that funds are being spent on food and material goods.
Reactions to the new program are generally positive, with students enjoying the variety and accessibility of the system. “I don’t carry money around when I go out, so having Domain Dollars on my card is a convenience. Vending machine dinners will be no longer!” exclaimed Martha Dinwiddie (C’17). While many students welcome the program, longtime Stirling’s employee Bella Lilly (C’17) has found the transition frustrating. “Last semester I thought Stirling’s was busy, but business has increased even more this semester. We are understaffed and students can’t leave tips with Domain Dollars,” lamented Lilly, who feels that Stirling’s has lost some of its charm and intimacy because of the rapidity of renovations and sudden increase in business.
Berlin is hopeful that the program will be adopted by the students and foster a closer relationship between campus proper and local vendors, “creating enough economic energy to support, expand, and perhaps attract businesses in the future.” In the coming months the administration plans to expand Domain Dollars to include the SUT, SPO, and the Book and Supply Store.