The Grad Club restaurant and bar on Queen’s University campus has received the green light to reopen after nearly two months of waiting.
“I want to thank everyone that took time to speak up, it made a big difference,” posted their General Manager Virginia Clark on Facebook on Friday Sep. 11, 2020. Clark said they should be “operating soon.”
According to Astrid Hobill, president of the Grad Club’s Board of Directors, the facility submitted their COVID-19 reopening plans to the University for approval back in July 2020. They’d been hoping to open by August 18 or 19.
“We basically didn’t hear back from them for quite a while,” Hobill said. “When we did hear back from them, they said we could only open on the patio, and only serve one drink per customer, with a meal.”
These terms were not realistic in terms of a business model, or their customers’ expectations, Hobill said. With the summer wrapping up, patio service is also unpredictable. Hobill said management was very concerned that staff wouldn’t be able to come back in full force, or might face shift cancellations in bad weather.
“If we would be cancelling their shifts all the time, that’s not fair for them,” she said.
Community support ‘expedited the process’
Meanwhile, with the rest of the province in Phase 3 of the Provincial Guide for Reopening, and the fall term approaching, Hobill said the Club was receiving many inquiries about why they were closed.
On Monday, Sep. 7, 2020 the Grad Club posted a statement on Facebook that they were not able to open due to issues negotiating with Queen’s.
“We put out a post at that point to make it public because it was the start of the school year and we had so many people asking us why we weren’t opening up,” Hobill said.
The social media traction put new pressure on the University. “There were a number of people from the community — students, profs — who sent emails [to Queen’s], as well as people posting on social media,” Hobill said.
“I think that did expedite the process a bit and make it a little bit more urgent than they had originally thought it might be when they were just hearing from us. We’re really appreciative of all the support that the community gave us,” she added.
Modifying their operations for COVID-19
Since that Facebook post, Hobill said they were able to convince Queen’s health and safety officers to do a walk-through of the building, and they were impressed with the set up.
“I think because the building is really old and full all the time, people assume the rooms are a lot narrower than they actually are,” she said. “But they hadn’t actually been and seen the space. Now… they’re very happy with the way that we’ve got everything laid out.”
Queen’s also provided a statement Friday, as plans to reopen were confirmed.
“Queen’s is prioritizing the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff as the university resumes limited on-campus activities,” it read. “As part of a careful review of the Graduate Club’s reopening proposal, Queen’s has worked with the pub’s management to ensure proper health and safety protocols will be fully in place to protect its staff and the public when it reopens later next week.”
A member-run bar, the Grad Club is known for its social atmosphere. Under normal circumstances it operates as a live music venue, hosts trivia nights and other convivial events. Hobill said they are still fine-tuning what their COVID-19 operations will look like.
“For our membership, we’re going to move a lot of our programming online,” she said, including a planned series of concerts and talks. Trivia has been running weekly over CFRC community radio for the past six months, she said.
“Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to try to figure out how to get it running from the Grad Club. Obviously it will have to be in a different format, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. Everyone has been very resourceful.”