This week Higher Grounds Coffee Shop reopened its doors for business while the Highland Pub’s reopening date remains undetermined.
In fall 2017, SFU Dining Services took over the Maggie Benston Centre (MBC) Highland Pub, Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, and food court spaces from the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). As a result of this change in ownership, Simon Fraser University is now in charge of the student society’s food and beverage services.
According to Mark McLaughlin, Chief Commercial Services Officer, the MBC coffee shop will be co-branded as a Higher Grounds — Renaissance Coffee Shop for the time being, as the university is still reviewing permanent concepts for the recently reopened coffee shop.
“Since we took over the space [in September 2017], we’ve explored a number of concepts for a permanent solution. Given the limited kitchen facilities in that space, finding a good match is taking longer than first thought,” said McLaughlin. “We did not want the space to sit empty as we continued our search so we worked over the last couple of months to reopen as a Renaissance [Coffee] concept for now.”
With regards to the Highland Pub’s reopening date, it remains unclear as to when the pub will resume operation.
The university is currently searching for an experienced BC-based pub operator. According to McLaughlin, a Pub Operator Advisory Committee is in place to assist the university with the search and selection process for the pub operator. The committee is comprised of members from SFU Dining Services, SFU Student Services, as well as student representatives from the SFSS, Graduate Student Society, and the Residence Hall Association.
“[The pub’s reopening date] is contingent upon the [operator’s] plans for renovations. If renovations are not significant, the pub could be expected to open later during the spring  term. If renovations are significant, the opening will be contingent on the city permitting and construction,” stated McLaughlin.
McLaughlin stressed that in the meantime, the university has made arrangements with the SFSS to host a few pub nights to compensate for the delay, with the first one being held earlier in October 2017. “We’ve also made arrangements so that clubs can book the pub space for larger social events this term,” added McLaughlin.
Highland Pub currently operates under a liquor licence and as a result, it is a space for individuals aged 19 years and over. There were questions raised by the SFU community as to whether the pub will operate as an all-ages establishment once it reopens. According to McLaughlin, “Depending on the concept, an operator could propose a restaurant-like liquor licence that would allow minors to enter the premises . . . This type of licence, however, conflicts with the holding of Pub nights that are restricted to 19+,” explained McLaughlin. “Ultimately, we will work with the eventual operator to determine the licence type.”
The Pub Operator Advisory Committee is currently conducting operator interviews, stated McLaughlin, and depending on how long that process takes, that could either accelerate or cause more delays in the reopening of Highland Pub.