If all goes according to plan, the transition will be seamless.
As it normally would, the Phoenix will close for the holidays after December exams. When it reopens for second term in January, the Pheonix will be in its new location on the main floor of the Refectory building, above Bridges Café.
“We’ve been working on this project for three years,” said Jessica Merolli, president of the Graduate Students Association (GSA). In the same way that the MSU owns TwelvEighty, the not-for-profit Phoenix is owned by the GSA.
The renovation will be funded by graduate student fees, which means that prices will generally be unaffected.
The new location will feature a higher capacity, a larger patio and an expanded kitchen. But given the success of the Phoenix in its current Wentworth House location, project managers have tried to maintain the rustic feel that differentiates the bar from other campus establishments, like TwelvEighty.
“We’re building on the older feel,” said Merolli. “It’s not a modern-looking restaurant; it’s kind of that mix, like a gastro-pub. We really want to keep the pub element of the look of the Phoenix.”
Though the new kitchen will allow for more specials and menu additions, the Phoenix menu won’t change drastically in the move. Burgers, for example, will continue to be a staple, especially with the addition of a charbroiler to the kitchen.
“We’re still going to have the microbreweries on tap – we’re still going to have a lot of beers on tap, a lot of variety,” added Merolli. “When we went into the project, we knew that these are the kinds of things the Phoenix does really well, and we want to continue to do them really well.”
Even since the 1980s, there has been discussion of demolishing Wentworth House. With the Phoenix and other organizations gradually moving to other locations, it looks like the building is finally on its way to being torn down.
“It’s important for the Phoenix to get a permanent space on campus. We’re taking over the space, and it’s not like Wentworth House, where you can never get a straight answer of what’s happening to that building … so it’s nice to have a building that can’t be torn down, because [the Refectory] is a heritage building.”
Originally, the Refectory housed the campus cafeteria. More recently, the space has been used for exams, among other things, while being reserved from any permanent use in anticipation of the Phoenix move.
Along with the bar, the Graduate Students Association offices are moving out of Wentworth House and into the Refectory building. But, because the GSA move would interfere with the operations of Bridges, they will wait until May, when Bridges closes for the summer.
A big priority for Merolli has been moving the bar and the offices to a wheelchair-accessible location. “There are grad students that can’t get to our office which is, for me, unacceptable. It is a lot of money to be spending, but I’m excited to set up the GSA as an organization that is accessible,” she said.
Merolli is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in political science. She’s been President of the GSA for two and a half years, and the project started just before her three-year term did. “It’s really nice to see that it is actually happening.”
There is a chance that the move from one location to the other, which will require transport of the point-of-sale system, among other equipment, will spill into the first week of second term. A second debit/credit machine will likely also be added to accommodate the extra patrons. Though, because major renovations will be complete, the move won’t take long.