Written by: Amneet Mann, News Editor
October 23, 2018 correction: The original version of this article stated that the committee organized to choose a pub operator, which included representatives from the SFSS, the GSS, and a student from residence, was organized and consulted in the fall 2018 term. This has been corrected to the fall 2017 term.
As early as late November, SFU could be opening a new campus pub.
Set to open in the space that Highland Pub used to occupy, the pub, titled The Study Public House, will be operated by Joseph Richard Group (JRG), a hospitality organization comprised 25 restaurants and pubs in B.C. and Alberta.
In an interview with The Peak, Mark McLaughlin, chief commercial services officer at SFU, described the new pub as a mash-up of a bar and an arcade space.
The Study Public House is part of a larger partnership between SFU and JRG. JRG will also be providing another catering service option, named Blank Canvas Catering, under Meeting Events, and Conference Services (MECS), according to a press release published by the university. Currently, Sodexo is the sole food-service operator available under MECS.
McLaughlin noted that appointing JRG to be the operator of the new pub was a unanimous decision by the search committee.
“They’re very community-minded, professional operators, they have good experience with liquor licensing, they have a good track record,” he said.
The space is currently undergoing extensive renovations. The bar area, booths, tables, and washrooms are being remodelled. The lower area of the pub space is being outfitted as an arcade which will include vintage pinball machines, shuffle board games, and ping-pong tables.
“It’s an old building — part of the pub has been here since 50 years,” said McLaughlin. “It’s been a lot of work to bring things up to standard.”
Recruitment is underway for The Study Public House — job postings for front-of-house and back-of-house positions have been posted on the job posting website Indeed. Full-time and part-time positions open to SFU students include management positions, sous chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and servers with salaries ranging from $11.40 to $18.00 per hour. SFU is planning to release further details regarding future hiring fairs shortly via social media channels.
The new pub’s capacity will be higher than the previous Highland Pub’s capacity. Currently, the capacity stands at 330 individuals indoor and 82 on the patio. The capacity of the patio is expected to increase once the Student Union Building (SUB) opens, as it will add an additional fire exit to the patio.
The patio will have an area where smoking — excluding cannabis smoking — is permitted.
The pub is projected to be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week, although McLaughlin noted that this is dependent on how well the establishment fares. Due to the liquor license, access to the pub will be restricted to students who are at least 19 years old.
“The university feels it’s important that the students and community have a good place to socialize, so this is really what we’re trying to do here — create a great space right in the heart of our campus.” – Mark McLaughlin, SFU chief commercial services officer
Student groups will be able to book pub nights in The Study Public House as was previously done in The Highland Pub. McLaughlin requested that groups hold off requesting pub nights until closer to the opening date of the establishment, and that SFU will be posting more information regarding this closer to that time.
The Highland Pub was closed in April 2017 by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) citing financial difficulties. In September 2017, SFU took over the former Highland Pub space, the former Higher Grounds Coffee Shop space, and the Maggie Benston Food Court from the SFSS.
The coffee shop was reopened in January 2018 as a hybrid between Higher Grounds and Renaissance Coffee.
“We promised the SFSS we’d get that coffee shop up and running [. . .] that was the easiest option, the fastest way to get it open,” said McLaughlin. “We wanted to keep our options open in case we needed that space as an extension to the pub,” he added.
As the new pub design will not require the coffee shop space, McLaughlin noted that SFU is planning to explore a more permanent concept for the coffee shop space after The Study Public House is opened.
“For sure we want to renovate it and see where we are at that time,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin noted that the university is also working on plans to renovate the area ranging from the Junction 65 on campus to the Global Student Center. The renovations are designed around the core of the SUB set to open in the summer 2019 term.
According to McLaughlin, SFU organized a committee consisting of university administration, SFSS representatives, Graduate Student Society (GSS) representatives, and a student from residence to choose a pub operator for the Highland Pub space in the fall 2017 term.
The committee began by reaching out to current and past partners of the university but “realized they didn’t have the marketing savvy to really make it a big success and create that vibe and energy,” said McLaughlin.
After deciding upon JRG as the pub operator, the process of creating designs for the space, obtaining permits, sourcing new equipment, and now renovations pushed the opening date of the pub to late 2018.