The Faculty of Arts’ favourite undergraduate bar reopened its doors on Sept. 22, ready for what might be the first year of regularly scheduled dollar beers since the 2018-19 academic year. After three years of waiting, students rejoiced at the return of Bar des Arts.
Since 2007, Bar des Arts (BdA) has been known for its $1 beers and grilled cheeses offered every Thursday out of the Arts Lounge in the basement of McGill’s Leacock Building. The tradition took a turn in 2019 when BdA was forced out of its home base in Leacock at the onset of renovations in the building. The bar’s student managers worked hard to find a new home for BdA but were faced with high costs and a lack of support from members of the McGill administration. Thus, BdA had to be shut down, and on Oct. 24, 2019, BdA hosted the “BdArtsLounge Funeral.”
The fight was not over yet. On Feb. 11, 2020, over 1,000 students signed an open letter demanding support from the university’s administration to help BdA reopen. Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau finally agreed to give back the Arts Lounge by Apr. 30, 2020. Students could almost smell the warm beer flowing.
But in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, BdA has had to wait until this fall to try its hand at another full year of service. Every Thursday, the doors of the notorious Arts Lounge open at 5:30, but dollar beer lovers wait in line starting as early as 4:30, dressed according to that week’s theme. On Sept. 29, BdA hosted “BdAdam Sandler”; the basement of Leacock was buzzing with students in baggy t-shirts, long shorts, and backwards caps to show their dedication to all that BdA stands for—friendship, memories, and tight student budgets.
Campbell Graham, U1 Arts and BdA staff member, chose to work at BdA because of her positive past experiences with the Arts Undergraduate Society.
“Everyone is just so fun—like, there’s no one who is disappointing to work with,” Graham said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
Mitchell Horwood, U3 Arts and BdA co-chair, echoed Graham’s sentiments.
“We’re trying to have all the inclusivity [we can], all the amount of amazing times that people can have [with the re-opening of BdA],” Horwood said.
The vibrant atmosphere in the Arts Lounge certainly contrasts its grey, windowless, and low-ceilinged design. People are meeting new friends, laughing with old ones, or posing for a photo in every corner of the lounge. One alcove is home to a pool table with several students perfecting their game.
In an office adjoining the Arts lounge, some staff are running the grilled cheese station—or rather, a panini press. The line to buy the popular snack extends out of the office and into the lounge. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside: The BdA grilled cheeses make the perfect comfort food.
Sam Stourton, U4 Arts, points out that BdA’s grilled cheeses come at a great bargain.
“In the times of eight per cent inflation, the fact that you can come here and pay one dollar for a slightly subpar grilled cheese, which hits every single spot you could possibly have […] I mean, I personally couldn’t ask for anything more,” Stourton said.
It is clear that the anti-luxury regime of Bar des Arts adds to its charm in the eyes of those who frequent it.
Stourton proudly proclaimed to the Tribune, “I’m living life at BdA. Life has never been better.”
While most of BdA’s staff and students are newcomers, its atmosphere confirms that student traditions die hard. As always, this generation of Arts undergrads came for the cheap beer and stayed for the community it created. Though we should be wary of making too many predictions, it might be safe to say that Bar des Arts is back for the long haul.
You can find Bar des Arts on Facebook and on Instagram at @bar_des_arts or in the Arts Lounge in the basement of Leacock every Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30.