Bill Kitchen, senior manager of hospitality services has no set date but says The Ob will re-open in the future. Photo credit: Jeremy Morse

The Observatory will be closing for the fall semester due to the reduced number of students returning to campus.

On July 30, 2021, the Students’ Association staff will begin the process of relocating their operations to the soon-to-be-completed Athletics and Recreation Centre, where they will prepare to open an as yet unnamed restaurant on September 7.

The Observatory will continue to operate Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until July 30. While no re-opening date has been announced, Bill Kitchen, senior manager of hospitality services, assured that the Observatory closure is only temporary.

Kitchen is responsible for overseeing The Observatory and Starbucks in the Student Commons (E-building). Both restaurants have been able to stay afloat throughout the pandemic, but with the addition of another restaurant in the Athletics and Recreation Centre in September, Kitchen feels that running The Observatory in parallel would not be a resourceful use of funds, considering the drastically lower number of students who will be attending the campus in the fall compared to previous years.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Kitchen said that the Students’ Association has been able to retain all of their full-time staff, while offering as many part-time positions as possible.

“Our students who work for us really are the experience of coming here. They’re the folks you go to class with, they’re the folks that really define your student experience. They give us a window into what do students want, how do we respond to student needs and to position ourselves best to provide for students.”

The new restaurant will feature some of the dishes popularized by The Observatory, offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan options alongside traditional protein. “A real point of emphasis for us is to make sure that our menu’s accessible,” said Kitchen.

Aside from the accessible menu, the new restaurant is conveniently located. The Athletics and Recreation Centre sits near both the residence building and Student Commons (E-building). “Its proximity to residence makes a lot of sense for the folks that will be here and on campus with the greatest frequency,” said Kitchen.

Although there are high hopes for the Athletic and Recreation Centre’s new restaurant, some students are unsure how they feel about abandoning The Observatory.

Emma Campbell is a student in the hairstyling program and was a regular patron of The Observatory last semester. “I’m a bit hesitant, as the hairstyling program loved the Ob since it’s usually the only thing open when our labs are going.”

Campbell’s classmate, Lauren Tippins, shared a more pragmatic view. “I think it’s a fair thing to do, there aren’t lots of students on campus anyways due to COVID, so they probably aren’t making as much money as they would if it were fully open.”

Kitchen looks forward to more students being able to return to campus as restrictions ease. “I think we’re really proud of the service and the experience that we offer to students and as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’re excited to share it with everyone.”