The uncertain future of Bar des Arts

For over a year now, many McGill clubs and services, such as Midnight Kitchen and Schulich Library, have been affected by indefinite construction. Among the impacted spaces is McGill’s beloved Bar des Arts (BdA). 

Usually taking place every Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Lounge located in the basement of Leacock, BdA has closed its doors due to renovations taking place throughout the building. In the face of these developments, BdA staff initially worked to find other locations on campus, including McConnell Engineering, Ferrier, and the Education Building. The staff even looked at venues within the Milton-Parc neighbourhood such as Le Coin Social, Apartment 200, and La P’tite Grenouille. However, while BdA managed to hold a couple events at other locations, they ended up facing constant dead-ends and high costs when looking for a permanent location for the bar, forcing them to halt the occurrence of weekly events. 

Known for its cheap drinks and delicious $1 grilled cheeses, BdA has held many iconic events, most notably last year’s “BdAll In This Together,” a High School Musical-themed evening and  “BdA and Boujee” in February 2018, a special Migos-themed event serving $1 glasses of wine. 

For many, BdA has become more than just a bar. During its 13 years in operation, it turned into a place for a diverse community of students to come together. Like Gerts, which was forced to close due to HVAC, electrical, and asbestos issues found in the University Centre, the closure of BdA has had a large impact on many at McGill. 

For Mercedes Labelle, U3 Arts and BdA Co-Chair, the bar’s indefinite hiatus represents a loss for the student community.

“BdA was often the only time I saw a lot of my friends from Arts outside of class,” Labelle said. “It made me feel connected to the community in a deeper way and made me want to come and stay on campus for something other than class. With the SSMU Building, Gerts, and now BdA gone, McGill is slowly losing its campus culture and community—something that is essential to everyone’s university experience.”

Ethan Casey, U3 Arts and BdA Co-Chair, explained that the loss of the Arts Lounge extends beyond the weekly events of BdA.

“Moving past just BdA, the Arts Lounge in itself has always been a place in which Arts students can be themselves in a setting that is inclusive,” Casey said. “Whether you need to destress and play pool, […] have a quick nap, or escape the stress of McLennan and eat your lunch peacefully, Arts students could always rely on the lounge as a humble home for the largest faculty on campus.”

In response to its closure, BdA staff have written an open letter to the McGill Administration—in particular to Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s Campus Planning and Development Office—explaining the importance of finding the bar a home. BdA staff are demanding a consultation with administrators, a construction timeline, a guaranteed date of re-opening, and monetary compensation if alternative venues are not financially feasible for their not-for-profit bar. Through following these measures, the staff hope to bring BdA back to the McGill community as quickly as possible. 

The open letter also described how BdA’s forced closure highlights McGill’s deprioritization of initiatives that foster student communities. In fact, even after having meetings with seven members of the McGill administration, BdA staff received no help in finding a new venue for the event. 

“The lack of Bar des Arts constitutes more than students not having a place to drink alcohol on campus,” the letter stated. “It plays into the bigger discontent with the administration’s disregard for student life and wellbeing.”

At this moment, McGill students can only hope that their beloved BdA will find a home soon so that we can all get back to singing “Dancing Queen” while eating gooey grilled cheese sandwiches in no time.

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