Gerts Café, the daytime operation of Gerts Campus Bar, officially opened its doors to the McGill community on Nov. 8. The official launch comes after the cafe had to postpone its opening due to equipment shipping delays.
Tre Mansdoerfer, BEng’19, originally proposed a cafe model for Gerts during his term as Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) president in 2018-2019, and continued working on the proposal with Jemark Earle, 2020-2021 SSMU president, to eventually pass the motion on Dec. 3, 2020.
“A student union building should be a building where every room has some sort of utility, both during the day and at night,” Mansdoerfer said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “Gerts bar is the biggest […] selling point of the building, [so] it should [function] starting at 10 a.m.”
U1 Arts student Ella Brown, who enjoyed a free espresso courtesy of the cafe’s launch event, was impressed with the quality of the coffee.She looks forward to having Gerts Café as an alternative to libraries for studying.
“It seems nicer to study at Gerts Café than working at McLennan or the other libraries,” Brown said. “It has an ambiance that is different from ordinary coffee shops, and the coffee was definitely better at Gerts than at the other cafes around campus that I have tried.”
Kittel Coffee, a Montreal-based specialty coffee roastery, has partnered with Gerts Café as their exclusive supplier. For Nadine Pelaez, the manager of Gerts Café and Bar, a local coffee roastery was key when choosing a supplier, coming second only to quality. Another reason Pelaez chose Kittel was because of its focus on sustainability and transparency.
“[The] transparency report on their website is a big part of the appeal,” Pelaez said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “The fact that they had [one] and it was public on their website, and also what was in it […], was part of why I ended up choosing Kittel.”
Mario Bouthat, a sales representative at Kittel and barista-trainer at Gerts, also emphasized the importance of sustainability for Kittel.
“We negotiate the prices directly with the farmers, [and, with our packaging], we try to minimize the impact on the environment,” Bouthat said. “When you are at least making [the process] as best as you can, you are honoring the usage of resources [and] the countries of origin.”
Marco Pizarro, U2 Arts, echoed Brown’s enthusiasm about having a cafe on campus, but hopes that Gerts Cafe extends its hours to past 12 p.m.
“During the winter […] it would be better to have coffee and other hot drinks at Gerts in the afternoon,” Pizarro said. “Especially for people who don’t drink alcohol, it would be a shame not to have non-alcoholic options and [to not be able to] enjoy Gerts later in the day.”
Pelaez assured that there will eventually be some overlap in the hours Gerts’ Café and Bar are open. On Nov. 17, Gerts Café announced it would extend its hours to open at 8 a.m. and close at 3 p.m.
“Right now, my starting line is at six baristas,” Pelaez said. “[But] slowly, as I hire more people, I can expand the [cafe’s] hours.”
On Nov. 11, SSMU announced in an email that Gerts Student Bar and Cafe would be temporarily closed on Nov. 11 and 12 due to a positive case of COVID-19. SSMU and the Gerts management team informed students that the formal contact tracing process had been initiated to alert those present at both Gerts Bar or Gerts Café on Nov. 8 of the exposure.