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(Natalie Vineberg / The McGill Tribune)

Campus bar to reopen amid construction

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Gerts, McGill’s on-campus bar, will reopen in the last week of August, marking a hopeful return to normalcy for student patrons and its staff. Gerts has been temporarily closed since March 17 to allow for renovations to the University Centre. Although the current construction will continue through to Winter 2019, the completion of preliminary renovations to the building’s basement levels will allow Gerts to reopen.

Several structural issues, including outdated ventilation systems and the presence of asbestos, led to the University Centre’s temporary closure. The building closure impacted many groups at McGill, as nineteen student clubs were forced to relocate temporarily. Gerts’ inaccessibility was particularly disruptive as students could no longer access the popular campus bar during the last weeks of the Winter 2018 semester.

“I think the closure really left a hole in McGill culture,” Meg Price, a U2 Arts student, said. “There’s something about people’s moods when they go to Gerts. It’s like its own little world on campus. Whether you’ve just failed an exam or you’re out to celebrate not failing an exam, I feel like Gerts is always the place to go.”

The venue has also allowed a number of students to explore new interests by hosting various events throughout the year, ranging from trivia nights to club meetings. For example, Gerts hosted “Stand Up for Sangria,”  a free stand-up comedy show, in March 2018..

“I was able to get a lot of students involved in stand-up comedy for the first time,” Nicholas Krywucki, the U2 Arts student who organized Stand Up for Sangria, said. “Students could get a free fun stand-up show with a mix of professional comedians and first-timers.”

While the building closure left staff temporarily out of work last March, Gerts’ August reopening will allow incoming employees to train and start work as they have in previous years. The bar itself should also appear much the same to returning students. The bar’s appearance may undergo minor changes over the summer, but no large-scale renovations are scheduled, as the bar already underwent major renovations in 2012 costing an estimated $450,000.

As a SSMU operation, Gerts’ profits contribute directly to funding the society’s events, clubs, and services such as Drivesafe and Midnight Kitchen. According to the SSMU 2016-2017 Operating Budget, Gerts produced relatively low sales figures between 2014 and 2016, which the then vice-president (VP) finance and operations Zacheriah Houston attributed in part to the construction on McTavish Street. Since then, SSMU has reported a financial uptick, as revenues were reportedly significantly higher than expected in the last couple of years, with Gerts earning a net revenue of $23,384 in 2016-2017 and $29,766 in 2017-2018.

“[Gerts’] sales were greater last year [than] the year prior. We are hopeful the trend will remain positive,” SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune.  

The SSMU 2018-2019 Operating Budget predicts that Gerts’ temporary closure will not cause a major loss in revenue. However, to account for decreased traffic to the University Centre as a whole due to its partial closure as well as  inflation, SSMU intends to increase pricing at Gerts by up to $1 on certain products. SSMU has not increased Gerts’ prices in the last three years and does not expect to increase them again in the near future.

In a public statement on June 26, SSMU outlined how it expects future construction on the University Centre to proceed.

“Construction [and] renovation […are] well under way and will continue throughout the summer,” the statement reads.

SSMU plans to reinstate public access to the rest of the University Centre floor-by-floor and will provide formal notification to occupants as portions of the renovations are completed. In the same statement, SSMU announced that the Flat Bike Collective and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) Operations, situated on the basement levels of the SSMU building, are also scheduled to reopen in late August. The first and second floors should reopen in October 2018, followed by the third and fourth floors in January 2019, which will mark the completion of the renovations.

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