Grad club successfully negotiates reopening with University

After delays, campus bar looks to welcome patrons back

Hobill said the Grad Club was “really moved” by the outpouring of community support.

Though the Grad Club initially applied to reopen Aug. 19, it now anticipates reopening in the next week or two.

“We will now be reopening the patio and the first floor,” Astrid Hobill, president of the Grad Club’s Board of Directors, said in an interview with The Journal.

“We’re lucky in many ways that we have so many separate rooms downstairs, so we’re able to do quite distant seating. While people would normally come up to the bar, we’ll have more table-service to have fewer people moving throughout the building.”

The bar was approved to reopen Sept. 10, with a two-hour maximum stay and a three-drink limit for each patron. 

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Hobill said they’ve started training staff to reopen with current COVID-19 protocols. 

The Grad Club made a post on Facebook on Sept. 7 expressing the difficulties it has encountered while trying to reopen.

“We just wanted to let you all know that The Grad Club has been working very hard in order to reopen and serve everyone in a friendly, inclusive and COVID safe environment,” the Grad Club wrote. “Unfortunately, Queen’s University administration has been delaying our process and we have still not come to terms on when we can reopen.” 

The Grad Club sent its reopening plan to the University in mid-July, but “didn’t hear back from them for a while,” according to Hobill.

“When we did finally hear back in later August, they asked us if we could just reopen on the patio and only offer one meal and one drink [to each patron],” Hobill said, explaining that this option wasn’t financially viable because of how quickly patio season is wrapping up this September.

“From there, we said we can renegotiate these terms because, as it stands, it just financially wouldn’t work to reopen and we can’t do that to our staff—where we’d be open some days, but not others,” Hobill said. “Especially when the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) is about to run out.” 

Hobill said there were a number of people asking The Grad Club when it would be reopening.

“That’s why we put out our announcement saying we were still negotiating with Queen’s and we got a lot of community support, which was great. I think that actually helped move the negotiations along.”

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As The Grad Club is a member-run bar, she said the post was meant to “stay accountable” to its membership by letting them know what was happening.

“We asked if people could share the post on social media so that Queen’s was aware that people in the community were aware of this,” Hobill said. “There were a number of profs and grad students who wrote directly to some of the senior leadership team about the reopen as well.”

People were encouraged to email Principal Patrick Deane and Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green about the reopening.

“Part of the problem is that it’s such a malleable situation because there’s so much new information coming out on each day,” she said. 

“[Figuring] out where to go for answers can be a little bit difficult. It’s not always as clear as one would hope. I think that’s just due to the changing nature [of the situation] and that Queen’s has also had to scramble over the last few months.”

Reflecting on the process of securing approval to reopen from the University, Hobill said the Grad Club was “really moved” by the outpouring of community support. 

“The moment we had the message out, we had so many people asking us how they could help out,” she said. “That really points to, especially for the graduate community, what a special place it has in people’s hearts.”

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