Tea Room steeping until September

Construction for the Queen’s Tea Room will begin in a first floor room of the ILC in January.
Construction for the Queen’s Tea Room will begin in a first floor room of the ILC in January.
Journal File Photo

Plans have been brewing for six years and now, EngSoc has set an opening date for the Queen’s Tea Room in the ILC.

At the Oct. 27 EngSoc council meeting, VP (Services) Mark MacGregor announced the service is projected to open in September 2006.

“The stage we’re at now is we’re just finalizing some of our designs and concepts,” MacGregor told the Journal. “We’re hoping to start our construction in January.”

Essentially a coffee shop, the Tea Room will sell fair-trade coffee, loose-leaf teas and a variety of other small menu items.

It will join the AMS-run Common Ground as the only other non-alcoholic student-run food service on campus, operating under the auspices of the University.

EngSoc received official approval for the project Aug. 3 from Janice Deakin, acting dean of student affairs.

This approval process prolonged the project.

“Until we had the final approval we couldn’t proceed with a lot of our design processes just because of costs—just in case [of] the small chance it didn’t go through,” said MacGregor, who’s been in charge of the project since becoming VP (services) last May.

The service must operate within the framework set out by Residence and Hospitality Services, by which all campus food services must abide.

Residence and Hospitality Services had initially expressed interest in contracting the approximately 81 sq. m room to Sodexho or Brown’s Fine Foods, but both groups eventually rejected the space. Built into the ILC with the intention of housing a food service—albeit with different parties vying for who would run it—the room has been empty since the ILC opened in 2004.

“[Residence and Hospitality Services] had their model, so they didn’t think [the Tea Room] would work,” MacGregor said. “We basically had to prove to them that our model, under our conditions, could work properly.

“We convinced them of that and they signed off on it—I think they’re pretty encouraged.”

EngSoc President Chris Zabaneh told the Journal in late July, just prior to receiving final approval, that EngSoc was hoping the service would be up and running by January. MacGregor explained that after the approval went through, there were still details to be ironed out.

By and large, it’s been refining the three main concepts that will make the service unique that has taken time, he said.

Proponents of the project want the service to become a fully sustainable business by emphasizing environmental and social initiatives, integrated learning and a financially stable model.

“People think that environmental initiatives can’t be financially viable and that’s what we want to prove wrong, actually, and that’s what the great thing about the Tea Room is,” MacGregor said. “What we want to do is create an environmentally-aware business that’s not like anything on campus or in Canada [and] that can still remain financially stable.

“That’s why you don’t want to have things pushed forward faster than they should be.”

MacGregor said he feels confident the Tea Room will live up to its financial goals.

A grant of $57,600, which was awarded by the AMS Capital Allocations Committee in 2003, has now been transferred to EngSoc to help with the service’s startup costs. Donations from EngSoc and Sci ’05 ThankQ have brought the total capital fund to $98,729.

MacGregor said startup costs are expected to total $89,744, and the actual opening to cost an estimated $18,000.

A committee working on the project also anticipates receiving further funding from different private and government groups whom they’ve contacted.

Students from all faculties will be eligible to work at the Tea Room. The process of hiring managers, likely four, will begin in January, to oversee construction which will tentatively last until March. After construction is complete, MacGregor said managers will look to hire 65 to 70 student staff.

The Tea Room gets its name from a building that stood on the same Union and Division street corner where the new food service will set up shop. That Tea Room was torn down in 1973.

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