The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) University Centre, located at 3480 McTavish St., re-opened at the start of the Fall 2021 semester, offering space for studying, club gatherings, eating, and socializing. Gerts Campus Bar was also reopened with a new concept: A Gerts Café that would operate out of the same space as the bar during the day. While the bar section of Gerts has been in operation since Sept. 14, the cafe side has yet to open.
Inside Gerts, students can see a cafe-style counter set up in the corner closest to the entrance. Signage and arrows throughout the University Centre direct students toward “Gerts Café” at the ground level. There are also Quick Response (QR) codes posted on the Gerts entrance doors that lead to a webpage listing Gerts Café opening hours. Gerts doors, however, remain locked until 12:30 p.m., when the bar officially opens.
Many students, like Maya Sokoloff, U3 Arts, did not know Gerts would be adding a cafe, despite having been to the bar. Nevertheless, she expressed enthusiasm toward the concept.
“I only know [Gerts] as a bar,” Sokoloff said. “I think it is such a good idea [for Gerts to have a cafe]. Especially with it getting colder and rainier, I feel like there have been less communal spaces for people to hangout inside and having a nice student area for people to just do work, get coffee, and eat seems like a great idea.”
Gerts manager Nadine Pelaez explained that a series of logistical obstacles are behind the cafe’s delayed opening.
“An endeavor like this [has] so many moving parts,” Pelaez said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “The whole cafe is an entirely new business, so that in itself takes a lot of time. Another delay is that it took a second for our machines to arrive. [Because] this is a new business, I want to get a new espresso machine, I want to get a good grinder and to be selling good coffee, so with COVID supply chains, things [took] longer than we originally anticipated.”
Pelaez also cited staff schedules and training as a challenge to opening.
“It takes so much coordination to hire and start people out,” Pelaez said. “Here, everything has been from scratch. These six baristas, this is my starting lineup, we have to train them all at the same time but also everyone has class, half of them have class on the Mac Campus, and it is so hard to coordinate.”
Rex Hamilton, U1 Science and a bartender at Gerts, noted that shipping delays have had an impact on Gerts’ operations.
“There has been a huge backlog, not just of café equipment, but all over the world for all different sectors […] because of COVID-19,” Hamilton said in an interview with the Tribune. “[Gerts Bar] has been short on tequila, there is a huge tequila shortage. But the [cafe] equipment did arrive a week or two ago, so I know [Nadine] has been scrambling to get the cafe staff ready.”
Despite backorders and the learning curve of opening a bar after a three-year hiatus, Hamilton has had a positive experience at Gerts so far and has enjoyed getting to know the McGill community.
“It has been a really good team, and we [have] all got each other’s backs,” Hamilton said. “I hope [the cafe staff] has fun and enjoys it too [….] I have met a lot of kids in the McGill universe through this job. It kind of feels like I am at the centre of everything if I am working [at Gerts]. So many different people come through [….] It is really cool to work a job where I feel like I am a part of the McGill community.”