SSMU University Centre reopens after three-year hiatus

After a three-year closure, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) University Centre, located at 3480 McTavish St., has officially reopened. The University Centre has been a one-stop destination for students to enjoy university life, offering space for clubs and communities to meet as well as operating a student bar. After closing for renovations in 2018, the re-opening was further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic—so many undergraduate McGill students have never gotten the chance to visit the popular spot until now.

In an email to The McGill Tribune, SSMU President Darshan Daryanani expressed his excitement about the possibility of inviting clubs back into the building. 

“The University Centre is designed to accommodate all the offices, bar and restaurant spaces, student lounges, event spaces, and meeting rooms needed for SSMU’s vast assortment of academic, social, and cultural activities,” Daryanani wrote. 

Daryanani explained that the building’s reopening was continuously delayed due to required renovations, such as replacing the electrical distribution systems and upgrading the alarm system. Given that restorations were under McGill’s jurisdiction, SSMU was unable to speed up the process. 

“This project consisted of the complete replacement of the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, which dates back to the opening of the building in 1965,” Daryanani said. “On a brighter note, the renovations will make the building more energy-efficient and more comfortable, in addition to reducing the frequency of system interruptions.”

Miya Dhillon, U2 Arts, expressed her excitement about the University Centre’s reopening.

“I had no idea there was a SSMU University Centre,” Dhillon said. “I don’t know if I have missed out on anything since I never knew that was an option for us. I am excited about the possibility of having a spot on campus where I can go and hang out.” 

Tina Vanslette, U2 Arts, echoed Dhillon’s sentiments about the reopening of the Centre, describing the reopening as a chance to experience student life.

“I have never seen the inside of the SSMU building,” Vanslette said. “I have heard stories about it, especially Gerts, but […] its legacy is in the old Reddit posts about it. One more year of construction and it might have completely missed my graduating class. I’m glad I’ll get to see it.” 

A popular feature of the University Centre is Gerts Campus Bar, a SSMU non-profit operation that hosts events and holds a space for students, faculty, and staff to get together. The bar will be open to students Monday through Friday and open on weekends to those who reserve in advance. In an interview with the Tribune, Nadine Pelaez, Gerts’ Bar manager, said that she is excited to return Gerts back to the McGill community.

“Having a student bar is something most college campuses have to help promote student life,” Pelaez said. “It is a social centre where people can hang out with friends, study, or meet new people. Gerts is supposed to be the low-key student bar that allows students the opportunity to socialize without any pretenses of exclusivity or snobbiness.”

While the bar’s layout has not changed, its concept has; this year’s bar will also feature the new Gerts Café. The café will feature a space where students can buy coffee and food in a relaxed, open environment.  

“I want a place where students can go on campus to get good coffee and food,” Palaez said. “I am not trying to compete with the coffee from the residence halls, but rather compete with popular coffee shops around Montreal.”

Gerts Bar and Cafe will be following all government COVID-19 regulations, including enforcing a 125-person capacity limit and checking vaccine passports at the door. 

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the SSMU University Centre was located at 3600 McTavish St. In Fact, the University Centre is located at 3480 McTavish St.

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