The Rub on the Pub

Undergraduates will soon be able to relax in a new campus pub, scheduled to open early in April. The gathering spot is part of a $4.5-million overhaul of Loker Commons, the student space below Memorial Hall, which will include music practice rooms, places to play pool, tabletop shuffleboard, and darts, and “flyby” lunch service for upperclassmen unable to return to their Houses at midday.

Image courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Harvard College
The Cambridge Queen's Head, a pub for undergraduates, will open beneath Memorial Hall in early April.

“When the freshman dining hall was moved to Memorial Hall in the 1990s, many of the social functions [of the old Freshman Union] were not replicated,” notes Zachary Corker ’04, temporary special assistant to the dean of Harvard College and the project manager for Loker Commons planning and program development. In addition to coordinating the project, he has been raising money for the dean’s fund for undergraduate life, which is footing the bill. A previous “food-court”-like series of cafés that debuted in the 1990s were financial failures, drawing far fewer patrons than the nearby, light-filled Greenhouse Café in the Science Center. Corker, once dubbed the “fun czar” by the Crimson, aims to avoid that fate by actively soliciting undergraduate input into all aspects of the planning, from the programming to the décor to the menu.

Even the name—Queen’s Head Pub—was a student suggestion, albeit with a basis in history. John Harvard, who left the “Colledge at Cambridge” his library and later lent the institution his name, also left the College a lesser-known bequest: the Queen’s Head Tavern in Southwark, England, which the University “owned and operated until 1879,” says Corker. (Harvard’s general counsel’s office, when filing for a trademark on the name, learned that the Hard Rock Corporation had reserved it the week before, so the new pub will be dubbed, officially, the “Cambridge Queen’s Head.”)

Students reacted negatively to the first design for the space, which resembled a modernistic “hip, cool bar that you’d find in New York City,” Corker reports. They wanted a place more like the Faculty Club or a “Gold Coast” room in Adams House. A new firm was hired, Miller Dyer Spears of Boston, which devised a British-style pub space in which students won’t have to feel bad about “putting their feet up on the couches.” With a seating capacity of 95, and a maximum occupancy of 225 (the local licensing board will determine the exact figure), the pub will be open only to students, faculty, staff, and affiliates of Harvard, including alumni and their guests and the guests of students. This policy is dictated by the terms of the educational operating licenses, says Corker, and means that tax will not be paid on revenue. Local authorities will also determine how permission to drink is secured. Corker suspects that state driver’s licenses, with Harvard IDs as backups, will be checked at every pour. Busy nights may require the issuance of wristbands, with graduate students monitoring the scene to prevent “passbacks” to underage drinkers.

“The primary character of the space will be undergraduate,” says Corker. “If Friday and Saturday nights are wildly popular with undergraduates, we may limit it to students those nights.” Though the space will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., the pub and kitchen will operate only Wednesday through Friday in the evenings after dinner, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon, serving burgers and fries, soups, salads, appetizers, and desserts. At least three different Harvard-connected beer brands will be available to students of legal drinking age: Sam Adams (founded by C. James Koch ’71, M.B.A. ’74, J.D. ’78); Heineken (run by the family of Charlene De Carvalho, wife of Michel De Carvalho ’66, M.B.A.’70); and Harpoon (founded by a group of Harvard graduates in the early 1980s). The Harpoon brewery is providing the signature Queen’s Head brew: 1636, selected by a group of senior tasters. (Wine will also be available.)

On Monday and Tuesday nights the space will be rented to corporate recruiters and alumni for catered events. “This is a critical component of the business plan,” says Corker, “since that will support all the other undergraduate functions where we count on losing money.” (All food and drink prices will be subsidized, for example.) “We did all these studies and a 50-cent difference in price led students to walk a mile farther,” he says. “Kids from Mather don’t have a problem coming to Loker if the beer is cheap or the appetizers are half price.”

Sounds like a plan.

Images courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Harvard College

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