“It won’t be The Clubhouse of yesteryear just yet”, bar manager Steve Donnelly tells me on Wednesday morning during the soft opening for the popular student spot. After leaving the taps dry for almost six months, UCD’s on-campus bar is back open, but to exactly nobody’s surprise – it’s just not the same.
Honoured to be the first customer since March, I stroll in just after 11 am and sit down with Donnelly for a quick chat. He tells me the closure period has been “tough” on everyone, but it’s “brilliant” to reopen the doors and see students back on campus.
He is excited to be back serving the UCD community, although students will see many changes to the bar. Nothing unexpected, most will be familiar by now with the types of restrictions on pubs and restaurants.
Students must have a substantial meal if ordering alcohol. Table service is in place (very fancy, I know). A one-way system operates: entering in the smoking area, and exiting from the front doors.
Seating in the bar has been reduced significantly, meaning a table at The Clubhouse may be hard to come by when students return to Belfield on September 21st. A cheeky pint after a lecture looks to become a novelty for a lucky few.
Financially, The Clubhouse has been hit hard, much like every other bar in the country since March. Fortunately, the price of a pint has not changed, meaning that the fresh pint of Fosters you’ve been dreaming of since March is as cheap as ever.
Donnelly stresses the responsibility The Clubhouse has to its staff and customers, explaining that areas will be closed off throughout the day to do routine deep cleans. He stresses that it’s a “learning process” and they are trying their best under the circumstances.
The Clubhouse will be following the latest government guidelines on restaurants and pubs and will adapt its practices as the guidance changes. Donnelly wants things to get back to normal as soon as possible, but for the time being, it will be a far cry from the packed smoking area and social spot it once was.
During term time, the food counter serves high numbers of students taking their food to go, something The Clubhouse looks to encourage more this year as seating is reduced on the premises.
The closer we get to September 21st when returning students come back to campus, it’s looking like the college life we all know and love will be very different, for a while anyway. The Clubhouse is just one of the pillars of UCD which have been dramatically changed by the pandemic.
Time will only tell how soon we can go back to skipping a day of lectures for impromptu pints at The Clubhouse, but one way we can get there quicker: keep washing those hands, keep your distance, be safe. Sure, you know yourself.
Conor Capplis – Senior Reporter