The College will be introducing two new dining options to campus later this fall: Peirce Express, a fast-and-casual AVI location, and Flats, a student-run bar. Though the establishments will be two separate entities, they will both be located in the space previously occupied by Chilitos Fresh Mex and Margaritas, which closed this past summer.
The College and AVI administrators have discussed the possibility of offering another dining option for years, according to Senior Director of Campus Life James Jackson, and they found an opportunity to finally implement those plans in the newly available space following the closure of Chilitos. Just last year, Kenyon briefly planned to offer grab-and-go food at Gund Commons as a COVID-19 safety precaution.
Peirce Express is intended to relieve some of the pressure placed on the AVI employees in Peirce Dining Hall and to provide students with a quick, grab-and-go-style dining option. “They’ve been working on it for a while to try to get a different location because of the congestion,” Resident Director for AVI at Kenyon College Ryan Summers said. “That’s why they went with the Peirce Express, to maybe help it be a little easier at Peirce, to have a little better flow.”
Peirce Express will mainly serve bowls, and different varieties will be served throughout the week, such as Mexican- or Asian-inspired bowls similar to those at popular fast-food chains like Chipotle. There will be seating for about sixty people for anyone who wishes to dine-in, and the food will be included in Kenyon students’ current meal plan. Unlike Peirce, however, Peirce Express will also be open to the public, meaning that students will need to bring their K-Cards.
While the tentative plan is for Peirce Express to be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, Flats, the student-run bar, will likely begin its hours at around 8 or 9 p.m. and close at around 1 or 1:30 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and possibly Sundays. Unlike Peirce Express, which will be operated by AVI employees, Flats will be entirely student-run, though it will be under AVI guidance.
Delaney Gallagher ’23 came up with the idea for Flats and worked together with Rocco Danese ’23, Charlotte Schultz ’23, Spencer Hirsch ’23 and James Loveland ’22 to present the idea to the College. They are now preparing to launch and manage the bar. While the original plan was to partner with the College and operate Flats as a pop-up establishment, upon securing the Chilitos bar as their permanent location they ultimately partnered with AVI instead.
Under AVI guidance, the student leaders will receive funding to purchase wholesale alcohol to serve, and all the students hired to work there will receive their wages from the AVI payroll. The four students responsible for the management of Flats will lead a hiring process in the next few weeks, aiming to hire around twenty students.
“This is a great opportunity to get work history on your resume, be able to go socialize with others, as well as not just be a student but be a student-worker at the same time,” Danese said.
While the idea behind Peirce Express is largely to meet increasingly heightened logistical needs, Flats is intended to provide students with a fun, casual place to socialize and relax. “This is meant to bring back the student population into a place where we can all have a good time, enjoy life,” Danese said. “The school doesn’t really have that many places to do that at the moment, and we think this is a nice alternative to just going to an NCA or a New Apartment party.”
Gallagher added that the general decline in all-campus social events had a considerable impact on the vibrancy of the College’s social scene, and that the Flats would hopefully be able to contribute to re-fostering a closely-knit community. “Having also seen the decrease of all-campuses, Flats fills a necessary void of regular events aimed at returning an integrated Kenyon community,” she said.
The student leaders are excited to take advantage of the space’s speaker system and TVs, which would not have been accessible if the bar had been only a pop-up establishment. In their mission to enhance Kenyon’s social scene, they also hope to host theme nights and hire student musicians and DJs to play at the bar. “We’re trying to be as student-centric as possible,” Danese said. “I think it’s going to be very easy to find those people and bring them in to take on one night or take a part of the night.”
Besides providing a welcoming space for students, the founders also hope that the bar will bring in enough profit that they will be able to contribute to the local community. “The goal is once this is profitable, up and running, that we could serve as a place to give our profits back to the community, through different events, helping student organizations,” Danese said.
The College and the administrators at AVI hope that these new establishments help to improve the experiences of all members of the Kenyon and local communities. Both establishments are planned to open by late fall for students and residents to enjoy new dining experiences.