Section: News

Cove o’clock ends as College eyes new bar

Cove o’clock ends as College eyes new bar

Photo by Drew Meeker

In the wake of the College’s announcement that it would close the Gambier Grill by the end of the year, the administration has moved to open a restaurant-bar out of Peirce Pub, and Student Council has begun seeking input from students on what they would like to see in the business’s long-term replacement.

On Jan. 22, Kenyon announced via a campus-wide email prepared by the Office of Communications that it would not renew the lease on the Grill, commonly known as the Cove, and will demolish the building. In its press release, the College announced that the decision was made “with a long-term vision to enhance student residential life and promote the small-scale charm of the village of Gambier.” The Grill’s current lease expires on June 30 and the business must close by that date. The College has owned the building since 2002, and has been leasing the space to Gambier Grill proprietor Andy Durbin.

Durbin did not wish to comment, citing concerns related to an ongoing negotiation process.

“In the time before a new place in the Village can be built, we’re definitely committed to making sure there’s a place in the community where there can be a casual, food-with-bar alternative,” President Sean Decatur said. Decatur said he has never visited the Cove.

The College’s updated master plan, approved by the Board of Trustees last spring, designates the space currently occupied by the Cove for North Campus Apartment-style student housing. This remains the plan, though there is no official timeline for construction, according to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman.

The master plan calls for a complete restructuring of downtown Gambier. The area where the former Student Activities Office building was located — the building was demolished over winter break — is also slated for student housing. Apartment space also exists in the building housing the Cove, but it has not been used since the 2013-2014 academic year.

A new restaurant will eventually be built as part of the second stage in a Village renovation plan, according to the email. This stage includes the destruction of buildings including Farr Hall, and construction of new commercial space.

Kim Novak, resident director of AVI Foodsystems, Peirce Hall’s food-service provider, said the College contacted her about opening a restaurant and bar in Peirce Pub by the start of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Novak said the project is still in an early stage, but the current plan is to operate Peirce Pub as a 21-and-over bar, serving food, beer and wine on Friday and Saturday nights. Novak said the menu will be styled after the Cove’s current offerings and will include pizza as well as a student favorite: mac-n-cheese wedges. Novak does not expect to offer a food delivery service as the Cove does, but said pick-up might be available.

The pub will open around 8 p.m., after Peirce’s dining hall closes, and close around 2 a.m., the current closing time of the Cove on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Novak expects some equipment in the Pub will need to be updated, but that no major renovations will be needed. The pub already has a bar and food-preparation area. She said the business will only run until a new restaurant is opened in the Village, as the master plan recommends.

“Peirce Pub probably won’t work, but will be a really interesting failure,” Nate Epstein ’16 said.

The College will call for input from the student-led Buildings and Grounds Committee, according to Kohlman. Novak will also seek opinions from students, including tastings of potential menu items. At present, Peirce Pub, run as a bar and restaurant run until 2009, is mostly used as an area for student gatherings or for seating during mealtimes.

Three days after the announcement that the business’s lease would not be renewed, Student Council sent a survey through a Student-Info email to gather information about preferences for a future establishment to replace the Cove. Questions on the survey include, “What do you think is the Cove’s function in the community?” and “What elements would you like to see in a late-night food and/or drink option?” Student Council president Phoebe Roe’s ’16 hope is that students’ sharing of their experiences at the Grill will help inform the next step for the College.

“I really want students to know that their voices are going to be heard,” Roe said.

The closing of the Cove has attracted strong reactions from current students and alumni alike.

“I was so upset when I first got the student survey, all I wrote was, ‘Please don’t take this away from me!” Emily Margolin ’17 said.

Peter Nolan ’11 posted on the “Kenyon in NYC” alumni Facebook page calling for support of the Student Council’s survey.

Some students, however, are less concerned about the closure. “I think it could be a good thing,” Stephen Margaria ’18 said of the pub assuming the Grill’s role. “I definitely would like to see somewhere nice where students can go late at night to eat and sit down — something nicer than the Cove is now.”

Roe said she does not anticipate a reversal in the College’s decision regarding the lease, but plans to meet with Kohlman and Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, to discuss making the institution that succeeds the Cove responsive to the priorities of students.

“It’s very clear the Cove is not going to open next year,” Roe said. “Hopefully, the result of this meeting will be a plan for the short term.”

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