The Office of Campus Life recently announced plans to turn the Log back into a functioning restaurant and bar as early as Sept. 2015.
Steve Klass, vice president for student life, and a steering committee of students and faculty began planning the project a year and a half ago.
“About two years ago, we started having lots of conversations with trustees about what it would take to revitalize Spring Street, an important part of which, of course, is the Log,” Klass said.
In April 2013, President Falk asked Klass to assemble focus groups of students, alumni, faculty and staff to determine what the biggest challenges were to renovating the Log and the best use for the facility. Several goals emerged from these discussions.
First, the group decided that the Log should have regular and predictable hours and programming. In addition, members agreed the Log should be a place where all four classes can socialize and where students can drink responsibly or choose not to drink and feel comfortable.
“If you want to go to a bar, both the Herring and the Pub go to 21 and over on the weekend, and neither of those places are particularly conducive to the kind of social interaction that the students whom we interviewed told us they wanted want to have,” Klass said.
Klass recognized that funding for the project would have to come from outside the College’s capital expenditure budget, which prioritizes academic and residential buildings. Several alumni who enjoyed the Log when it was a bar donated to the project, which has received most of the necessary funding, according to Klass. He expects that all costs of the project will be funded by donations and that the project will be funded in its entirety in the near future.
“Our alums have really stepped up … because of people’s real need to see this revitalized to what it had meant to them,” Klass said.
The Log will report to dining services, but will not be a direct part of its operations. The Log will be run by Dining Services Employees and purchase ingredients with Dining Services. By taking advantage of the College’s larger buying power and employee benefit programs, the Log will have the option to maintain low menu prices. On the other hand, its autonomy will make the Log feel like a freestanding establishment, rather than like another dining hall. Students will not, for example, be able to pay for food or drinks with meal swipes or Eph points. Klass believes that the Log will succeed where ’82 Grill failed to create a social scene. The Grill was intended to serve as a student pub, but became too integrated with dining services to create a bar atmosphere, according to Klass.
The goal of the renovations is to preserve the Log’s current atmosphere by keeping a working fireplace, restoring the wood tabletops and saving much of the memorabilia.
Major improvements include a kitchen that facilitates an efficient traffic flow; an additional 900 square feet, bringing the total to 6100 square feet; and a 30-seat porch to help defray costs over the summer when the Log might attract customers from the theater festival and other events. The Log, now one of the most energy inefficient buildings on campus, will become one of the most efficient with the addition of solar panels on the roof.
“If you ever wonder why there’s never any snow on the roof [of the Log] in the winter… it is because it is one of the poorest envelopes we have on any building anywhere and a lot of our money is going to go to making the building airtight and sustainable,” Klass said.
Klass estimates the budget for the entire project at around $3.5 million including $2.3 million in construction costs. The project is currently accepting and evaluating bids, which will take three or four weeks.
As of publication, the Log is planned to serve a small pub menu, wine and beer, with eight to 10 choices on tap. There will be an emphasis on using local, sustainable ingredients and the beverages will also be from breweries and vineyards in or around the Berkshires. The project committee is also considering non-alcoholic options such as artisanal milkshakes in keeping with its goal to create a meeting place for students of all class years. The restaurant and bar will open from about 5 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. During morning hours, the Log may open and serve coffee house items.
The Log served as a student pub in the 1970s and ’80s until the National Minimum Drinking Age Act raised the minimum purchase age to 21 in 1984. Since then, the Log has served as an ad hoc multipurpose space, hosting events, such as Log Lunches, performances and meetings.
“The Log, up until the mid ’80s, was a place where all students came together, a place where all four years of students were together,” Klass said. “It really became a place where people spent three or four nights a week, for all four years, socializing.”
The College will still hold Log Lunches and some other programming at the venue, but Klass imagines that there will be fewer events held at the next iteration of the Log. Last year, the Log was booked for 720 event hours, as many as Goodrich Hall, by both College-affiliated groups and by independent individuals who paid to hold events in the space.
Klass said that the College plans to implement a modern audio system to accommodate events; however, this equipment would most likely be limited to performances and meetings that would complement, but not interfere, with the Log’s regular restaurant and bar service.