After a hiatus of more than two years, Mohawk College’s Fennell Campus food services, study spaces and fitness centres are back in full swing just in time for the fall semester. However, students have noticed that one thing is missing: The Cellar.
While the rest of the campus returns to normal, The Cellar remains closed. Many students have been wondering why their favourite spot to grab a burger and a beer after class has yet to follow suit with the rest of the campus’ food services.
Director of food services operations of the MSA, David Coultis, explained why The Cellar is a special case.
“The Cellar is a bit unique because it serves alcohol,” he said. “For this specific case, I need to make sure that people have their Smart Serve from the government, and open another kitchen because for the government I need to sell food in order to sell alcohol.”
Getting staff trained to run The Cellar is also a challenge that the MSA must overcome before reopening the beloved pub, Coultis said.
“In order for me to re-open The Cellar I need at least 20 wait staff, and I will also need a whole other kitchen which is like six or seven people – that’s 27 people,” he said. “The food industry has also changed a lot during COVID. There is not a lot of well-trained staff who are available because many left the industry and if you find good staff, you will have to pay a lot of money.”
The MSA is taking extra time to ensure The Cellar is a safe space for the student community before it reopens. This includes debates over whether the pub should continue to sell alcohol.
Coultis says the debate about alcohol safety on campus was sparked once the pub was closed during the pandemic.
“Because The Cellar has been closed and there is nowhere to get alcohol on campus, the MSA has some internal debate whether we should be providing students with alcohol as a measure of your student experience,” Coultis said. “There is a lot of very strong feeling and opinions about [alcohol on campus]. For me, if the students want The Cellar open and want to have a beer, I’m like, ‘No problem, I can do that safely like I’ve done that any year before.’”
Despite navigating different opinions on what The Cellar’s offerings should look like in the future, MSA President Ashik Ashik says he believes The Cellar is an important part of the campus and would like to see it open again soon.
“I think it should be open as soon as possible, just because I’ve been talking with a lot of students who want it open,” Ashik said. “There are good memories at The Cellar and there was also a lot of networking happening there, so it is more than a restaurant or a bar.”
“I think it should be open even without serving drinks and focus on the restaurant set for now,” he added. “I’m going to refrain from those comments [regarding alcohol on campus] because that is a topic of debate right now.”
The Cellar is expected to be open again by January, in time for the winter semester. The option of opening earlier is also being evaluated, but the MSA makes no assurances that this will be possible.
For more information about food services on campus, visit mohawkstudents.ca or follow the MSA on Instagram at @msa_iahs.