McGill’s hustle and bustle can often seem neverending, and finding an environment where one can escape the busy-ness of student life while still on campus can be a challenge. The Arts Undergraduate Society’s (AUS) Bar des Arts (BdA) serves as a resting spot for students to enjoy a beer and grilled cheese, play a game of pool, or just relax with a diverse group of students.
“The role of BdA […] is to provide a space for students, run by students, that is about the students,” Nic Price, U4 Arts and BdA co-chair, said. “It’s really about offering a judgment-free, stress-free space for people to take a break from their daily lives on campus and have some fun.”
Nestled in the Arts Lounge in the basement of Leacock, BdA acts as a central meeting place on campus. Students of all faculties (not just Arts) toting frosh mugs and various reusable cups gather from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday evening.
“You’d be surprised how many people are not in Arts," Alyssa Gold, U3 Arts and BdA staff member, said. "There’s education, science, there are people who are in graduate programs here.”
This spirit of inclusivity stems from the tight-knit community among the staff, which extends to its patrons. Working together in various roles from serving beer, to checking IDs at the door, to managing cash, the camaraderie of BdA staff members continues even after closing time. Outside of the bar, the staff participate in events like apartment crawls and Faculty Olympics.
“The staff honestly, we are like one big family,” Alanna Sokic, U3 Arts and staff member, said.
This familial feel allows attendees to feel right at home at BdA, regardless of whether they would like to drink or not. Options such as water and juice are available in addition to beer, week to week.
“It’s more about the atmosphere and the people and less about the drinking,” Gold said.
In order to keep the weekly events engaging, each Thursday is marked by a new theme. Themes often incorporate a range of additional food and drink items. Price remarked on the continuous effort to appeal to a wide range of interests.
“We’ve done champagne for The Bachelor theme, we’ve done churros; we’ve done a bunch of things,” Price said.
While holiday-themed events in general tend to be the most popular, more unexpected themes also have the ability to draw in large crowds.
“Our best selling event was Mimosas & Samosas,” Price said. “That day we sold 1500 beers, I mean, it is unheard of. We sold all the mimosas and all the samosas.”
In line with other sustainability missions on campus, BdA sells plastic recyclable cups provided by their sponsor, Sleeman, in case students forget to bring their reusable and non-breakable cup.
“It is in an effort to promote sustainability but is also in order to promote [the] safety of our patrons,” Price explained.
BdA also acts as a platform for other clubs and organizations on campus to showcase their respective events and initiatives. Every week BdA hosts groups who would like to sell tickets for other events on campus, recruit new members, or just get the word out there about their club’s platform.
All in all, the BdA staff seek to inspire an environment with welcoming and non-intimidating vibes. Staff are quick to point to the openness of the environment as the result of BdA’s continued success. As word of mouth grows, so does the diversity of attendees. Staff members emphasized that forming new friendships and strengthening old ones is what makes BdA so appealing.
“Just come, we don’t bite,” Price said.
Whether it’s during the midterm lull or amped up holiday seasons, even after last call staff and attendees alike aren’t quite ready to leave BdA. The message that resonates is that BdA is a place all students can enjoy themselves be it once a semester, or every week. The impression is that your first visit to BdA likely won’t be your last.
“People love it so much they’ll want to stay afterwards,” Sokic laughed.