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Student-staffed bar to open this week

  • 27 January 2022

Students of Gonville & Caius College are eagerly anticipating this week’s return of the Old Courts bar, which will be staffed by students.

The refurbishment of the Old Courts kitchens, which took place from summer 2019 to December 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and staffing challenges have meant the bar in Gonville Court has been unable to open regularly for some time.

From Thursday (January 27) the bar will open on five evenings a week – Wednesday to Sunday – for a trial period for Lent Term 2022, after the GCSU and MCR suggested using student staff members, an idea supported by the College and approved by College Council.

Eight undergraduate students and five postgraduate students will be employed as staff, supported by the College’s catering team, who will provide practical support. The students will work for one shift a week, allowing them to focus on their academic studies while earning a small wage and contributing to the social scene in College.

Pictured from left to right: MCR President Saba Shirvani, GCSU President George Skeen, GCSU Food and Bar Officer Natalia Emsley and MCR Vice-President Ayat Abdurahman at a soft opening of the bar on Wednesday night

GCSU Food and Bar Officer Natalia Emsley, GCSU President George Skeen and MCR President Saba Shirvani have led on the initiative, which is similar to those run by other Cambridge colleges. They thanked members of staff across the College for ensuring the bar could return, in particular Domestic Bursar Jennifer Phillips, Head of Catering Ricardo Soares and his team, and Human Resources Manager Charlotte Hasler.

Natalia says: “We’ve had such a deficit of social space and interactions these last couple of years, primarily because of Covid, but also because of the Hall kitchen refurbishment, which put the bar out of use.

“We asked the students and were overwhelmed by the number of responses; we had between 400 and 500 responses, almost unanimously in favour. It was very clear it was something the students wanted.

“We’ve been desperate to get a bar space running and this offers another dimension, because it offers jobs for students as well, to expand people’s opportunities even further.”

Depending on demand, bar users can use the Under Bar, the Red Room, the JCR and MCR.

Mocktails and other soft drink options will be available and it is hoped the bar is a central social hub once again.

“It’s a perfect space for us to use,” adds Natalia, who has worked hard on delivering the bar through the holidays.

“We began to push for it at the start of this year and it’s exciting to make it happen. I hope it’s a thriving area where we can have a sense of the College community.”

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