Kenyon students have not yet found a spot that serves as a haven after parties get shut down, a supplier of mac and cheese wedges and the start of stories to share over the next morning’s brunch. Not, at least, like what the Gambier Grill — more affectionately known as the Cove — used to offer.
The Gambier Grill’s closure in February 2016 left many students wondering where they would continue a night out between leaving a party and going to bed. There was always the Village Inn’s (VI) bar, and the College hoped that opening Peirce Pub would satisfy students looking for late-night food, drinks and entertainment.
Almost two years later, how have Kenyon students responded to the change?
Alex Kinsman has worked as a bartender for the restaurant since the VI opened 11 years ago. If anything, he said he has seen a decrease over the past ten years in the number of students who order drinks from the bar, and those who do, order fewer. He attributes this more to the College’s enforcement of alcohol laws against underage drinking than losing the Grill.
“The Cove was where people went to go [to] mess things up,” Kinsman said. “They have a different respect for the VI.”
The only difference in attendance is that the VI’s Wednesday night crowd has grown larger and stays later. Before two years ago, people came to the restaurant for trivia and then made the short walk to the Gambier Grill’s location behind Farr Hall.
Just last Wednesday night, however, students crowded around the VI’s copper bar, ordering cosmos to raise donations to benefit Hurricane Harvey victims. Though trivia didn’t start until 10:15, teams filled every table in the dining room by 10 p.m. Those just out to socialize crammed into the cozy booths near the bar, and some even pulled up chairs for more seating.
The VI now staffs three people instead of just one behind the bar on Wednesday to accommodate the trivia-goers and others who stay until 2 a.m.
On weekend nights, Peirce Pub fills the space in students’ stomachs for mac and cheese wedges, but it hasn’t quite replaced the one in their hearts. “I always said it’s like partying in your parents’ basement,” Kay Burrows ’18 said. To her and other students, the Cove was a place dedicated to nightlife. Fewer people want to go to the Pub because it is operated by the College. “It’s weird to go in and see the AVI workers who see you during the day,” Burrows added.
Burrows misses the Cove as a space where different groups came together. “Since the Cove was a neutral space, you were always an equal to everyone who was there … social circles overlapped,” she said, and Burrows described how students “pressed shoulder to shoulder” with new people in the Cove’s smaller space. This fostered social interactions that were not confined to class year, major, sports team, club or Greek organization.
She believes this happens less at Peirce Pub. Not only do fewer students go, but the spacious room allows friends to recede into their own cliques.
Just like during the daytime, groups can grab their own tables and share snacks with each other. The only difference on weekend nights is that those of age can add a beer or mixed drink.
It wasn’t the College’s intention, however, to replace the Cove with Peirce Pub. In terms of what the Village needs, they hoped that a late-night option would keep students from driving in search of nightlife opportunities.
“The goal is to keep students on campus,” said Fred Linger, manager of business services at Kenyon.
The College developed the Pub as a two-year endeavor to supplement students’ nighttime options while remodeling the Grill’s old location for Gambier’s newest business, Chilitos Fresh Mex and Margaritas, which will be operated by the owner of Mount Vernon’s Fiesta Mexicana.