Specifics are starting to crystallize on the new proposed campus pub culminating in a potential pilot program this spring, according to General Manager at Bon Appetit Debi Wright.
The iteration of the pub currently being proposed was the idea of President Joseph Urgo, who first brought it to the student body earlier this year during the second Presidential Forum.
According to Wright, “the idea is to make the place sort of the hub…where students want to hang out and where they feel comfortable.” Originally, concerns regarding legality were worked out by the Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes.
Since then the operation has been handed over to Bon Appetit, who also runs the pub at Hamilton College (Urgo’s previous institution and a similarly-sized private liberal arts college).
Wright and other members of Bon Appetit at St. Mary’s have since been doing research into Hamilton’s pub and considering options for what can be done here. Director of Operations David Sansotta, who himself comes from Hamilton college, said that they do a pub lunch Mondays through Fridays including entrees and a salad bar, and open it up on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
According to Wright’s discussions with Hamilton’s general manager, the pub also puts on programming such as trivia nights, which she also plans to do at the proposed pub here.
Many other specifics have become more concrete since the beginning of the year. According to Wright, the campus pub at St. Mary’s would not only be a place for students to get beer and wine, but also late-night food and, Wright hopes, coffee and expresso drinks.
As far as a schedule is concerned, Wright said that the pub would probably open around 7 a.m. serving food similar to what is offered currently at the Lewis Quad Grab n’ Go.
At around 11 a.m. it would begin offering made-to-order food similar to what is offered at the Upper Deck, and would begin serving beer and wine at 4 p.m. Food and drinks would be provided from then until 1 or 2 a.m.
Wright noted, however, that the days out of the week when the pub would be open, and what days it would offer beer and wine, are still to be determined.
As of this writing, Wright said that the pub would likely be either in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC) or at the current location of the Grab n’ Go. She added, however, that she felt that “the Grab n’ Go is a better place in my eyes [and] it feels better; if I were a student I’d want it to be there.”
Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Schroeder echoed the sentiment. “Because I want to see this happen as quickly as feasible, I think the LQ rec room would be an ideal choice. You could do more in that space of turning it into a more pub-like environment.”
According to both Wright and Schroeder, programming at the pub will be a major part of the use of the space. Schroeder said, “I’d love to do some of the things we’ve been doing at Cole Cinema, but haven’t been able to serve alcohol.” She added that these would include things like movie nights, tailgates, an occasional coffeehouse.
The space would also be reservable, so clubs and organizations could host their own events.
Financially, however, Wright believes that the pub might be difficult to maintain. A major problem is that the pub cannot be in any way subsidized by the College (like Hamilton’s is) both because of the College’s status as a public institution and because, according to Urgo, “[The college is] not about to take on new expenses.”
Bon Appetit would also have to do major kitchen renovations to either location they choose, and hire a manager. Though there are still “many unknowns” at this point regarding what exactly will be done and what students and administration want, figures for doing these renovations are steep.
Drink prices would likely be above retail, though not by much. Wright said “our goal is to find a way to operate this and break even.”
Bon Appetit is currently working with a kitchen designer to figure out how much these renovations will cost, but in the mean time are looking into the costs of renting equipment for a pilot program to occur next spring in both DPC and the Grab N’ Go.
Wright added that the menus would include a very small and limited menu, featuring fare like chicken fingers, hot wings, nachos, and burritos. Which types of beer and wine the pub would serve have not yet been decided upon.