On Saturday night at the Gambier Grill, students stood outside its wooden door, waiting to enter the at-capacity bar. By the end of business hours, Campus Safety officers were attempting to corral students making off with mementos.
Rumors swirling among students that the Grill would close its doors after last weekend were substantiated by administrators on Tuesday.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman was contacted by the lawyer of Grill proprietor Andy Durbin on Monday to notify him that the business, known colloquially as the Cove, would close, effective immediately. President Sean Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian that Kohlman relayed the news to him in an email that evening.
The College, which owns the property, announced in a Student-Info email on Jan. 22 that it would not renew the Grill’s lease, and that the business would close no later than June 30 of this year. Both Kohlman and Decatur said they had expected the Grill would continue operations until at least the end of the school year.
“I was hopeful that he would be willing to continue operating through the end of the semester,” Kohlman said of Durbin. Durbin did not respond to requests for comment.
Durbin’s decision came after a crowded Saturday night at the establishment, during which some of those in attendance destroyed the sink in the men’s bathroom, punched holes in the wall, removed lightbulbs from ceiling lamps and stole the “Gambier Grill” sign hanging outside the establishment. Kohlman acknowledged that this destructive behavior may have hastened the closure.
“Once I saw the security reports on Sunday morning, it seemed pretty clear to me that the end was near,” Kohlman said.
Karen Sheys ’16, who began working as a bartender at the Grill in September, said she didn’t believe Durbin was responsible for the damage to the property.
“In my opinion, Andy was not at all at fault for any of the vandalism,” Sheys said. “There’s no way that a person that owns a business, and is proud of that business, and is sad to see it go, would egg people on to destroy it. … The one thing that he wants to get across is that he is heartbroken.”
Sheys downplayed the extent of the damage in comparison to past incidents, and said that students had punched holes in the wall and damaged a thermostat earlier this year.
“I don’t think this was that out of character, honestly, of Kenyon students,” Sheys said. “People get really destructive.”
On Wednesday, Decatur sent a Student-Info email announcing that the business’s final date of operation was Sunday, and elaborated on some of the context surrounding the decision. The message came at a time when students have questioned the College’s transparency and decision-making regarding issues like Summer Sendoff.
Decatur confirmed that Durbin wished to sell the business at least as early as the summer of 2014, though the administration released plans involving the building’s removal in its Master Plan in fall 2014. The College had offered Durbin “generous financial offers,” according to Kohlman in a press release, to operate until the end of this school year. Kohlman said he had had discussions with three such potential buyers but did not identify them by name.
Kohlman said the College will now consider advancing its date to demolish the building currently housing the Grill. He said the cost of demolishing the property would most likely total between $16,000 and $20,000, based on the cost of razing the former Student Activities Office building in January.
As of Tuesday, Kohlman said he had not spoken directly to Durbin about the decision, and that it would be against the College’s policy to discuss the specifics of its contract with the Grill.
Sheys sent a campus-wide email on Monday informing the student body about the theft of the sign and its value to the business’s owners, and requested that the person or persons responsible for the left leave it outside her apartment door. Sheys confirmed on Wednesday that, exactly at midnight on Monday, someone knocked on her door and left the sign outside.
The earlier-than-expected closure of the business leaves a period of nearly three months during which the College will be without a true late-night dining-and-drinking option, as the interim late-night bar which the administration plans to operate out of Peirce Pub on weekend nights is not slated to open until next semester.
“I never liked the Cove,” Tim Kotowski ’16 said, “but there does need to be a late-night drinking option for people, or else the people who would have gone to the Cove are just going to vandalize other parts of the campus. I hope they replace it with a better late-night option.”
Sheys, on the other hand, spoke highly of the role of the Grill in Kenyon life.
“The Cove was special,” Sheys said. “I think you can’t find a place like the Cove anywhere except a place like Kenyon.”