Campus Spotlight, Student Life

BtS of BdA

If you happen to be located within a kilometre of the Leacock basement on a Thursday evening, then surely, you’ve grown accustomed to the faint smell of beer and the distant sound of a 2000s hit blaring from the speakers. If you’ve even so much as wandered down the stairs leading to the basement, you’ll find a seemingly never-ending line of undergraduate students slouched against the wall, anxiously staring down the door of the Arts Lounge. And, if you brave the line and successfully make it in, you’ll get the chance to join in on all the fun that is navigating a small basement area jam-packed with sweaty students all desperately trying to avoid eye contact with every person they’ve ever matched with on a dating app. 

As unappealing as that may sound, Bar des Arts (BdA) is actually a huge hit: Week after week, faculty-wide undergraduate students pile into the Leacock basement and queue for over an hour just to get a taste—or, should I say, a sip—of the experience. What may seem like a benign student bar to many raises the question: To what does BdA owe its ongoing success? 

For an event involving hundreds of students, BdA is impressively well-coordinated. Weekly, the 41 staff members and seven managers undertake significant preparation with Thursday looming. Throughout the weekend, staff members choose the theme and promote their event on social media, and every Sunday, a beautifully-crafted Instagram post reveals the theme for the following week. Better than their excellent use of Canva are the event titles: Witty puns that combine “BdA” with a reference to the weekly theme, the best one being “PdA”—BdA’s Valentine’s Day event.

(MingXi Gu)

On the day of, staff members arrive 45 minutes before the start of the event, at which point students have already started queuing up, and get the basement ready before assuming their roles for the evening. 

“Anouk, our Personnel Manager, is mainly responsible for coordinating that,”  Mitchell Horwood, U3 Arts and BdA co-chair, shared in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “During the weekend, she creates a schedule for all available staff for the evening, with three one-hour shifts.” 

Staff work two shifts out of three, during which they rotate between the bar, the grilled cheese table, the ticket booth, and the door. There are also a few staff scheduled on walk-around to ensure the event runs smoothly. 

That being said, there have been a few BdA mishaps—one of which occurred early into the academic year when a student brought a glass cup into the Arts Lounge. 

“That’s why we have staff stationed at the entrance—their job is to check bags,” Horwood explained. “At our third event of the year, this guy came in with a backpack with a hidden pocket we didn’t see, which contained a glass cup. Naturally, he used the cup to drink and dropped it, at which point it shattered everywhere. Aside from having to clean up the mess in the middle of BdA, the mop we used had not been washed from the week before. It smelled awful and stank up the entire Arts Lounge. It was a very stressful 30 minutes—which we feared would tarnish our reputation—but thankfully, it didn’t.”

Behind BdA—or “the most democratic space on campus,” as manager Sam Baron, U3 Arts, refers to it— is a team of dedicated undergraduate students committed to serving $1 beer and providing an accessible and affordable space for students to let loose. 

“I really think that’s what brings people here—this sense of community, where everyone has a place,” Sam Reiken, U1 Arts and BdA publicity manager, shared with the Tribune. “BdA is something on campus that reminds people that studying isn’t the only thing McGill has to offer.” 
As the academic year comes to a close, so will BdA—the final event of the year takes place this Thursday before the student bar goes on a four-month hiatus. After such a successful year, one can only hope that the next one will be just as promising. By the looks of it, students have nothing to worry about: BdA’s reputation, along with its 2,000-follower Instagram account, just goes to show, once again, that Arts does it best.

(MingXi Gu)
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