The Speakeasy opens for graduate students, professors
Graduate students now have a new spot to call their own. The Speakeasy, a bar located in the basement of 44 Kent Way, opened last week to graduate students and faculty.
The Speakeasy is a space that is designed to bring graduate students and faculty members together, said Chris Castillo, fifth-year PhD student and president of Graduate Student Government.
“Usually when you think of the graduate student community, it is made up of a bunch of silos that don’t usually interact much with each other,” Castillo said. “The graduate student government wanted to bring everyone together and have a physical space that will allow graduate students to come together without a strict academic feel.”
The Speakeasy had a soft opening last Thursday and became open to the public last Friday, said Graduate Student Government Vice President of Student Affairs Cesar Carce.
Castillo said The Speakeasy was previously the home of the Blue and Gold Club, a dining club exclusive to faculty members.
“The Blue and Gold Club closed several years ago,” Castillo said. “The space was awaiting new tenants and the office of Graduate Students and Scholars and the Office of Professional Education went in and spent a good amount of money to secure the space.”
Once graduate students secured the space, minor renovations had to be performed to transform The Speakeasy into an operable bar and event space. Castillo said almost a year was spent renovating the building.
Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education Jim Richards played an integral role in creating the space, Castillo said.
“Dr. Richards was the big champion from an administrative side, pushing to get this space for graduate students, faculty and staff,” said Castillo.
Castillo said graduate students compose The Speakeasy staff, meant for students who do not receive funding. Graduate students have also been a part of the process of creating The Speakeasy. Isaac Harris, parliamentarian for the graduate student government, said a social committee was responsible for creating the namesake.
“Since The Speakeasy is in the basement, that gave off the feel of speakeasies in the 1920s where everything was hidden,” Harris said. “The building was built in the 1920s during the Prohibition era. The social committee thought The Speakeasy would be an appropriate name for the space.”
Castillo said the photographs featured in the space depict the university’s gender-segregated campus that existed in the 1920s. Committees are continuing to try and secure more university artifacts from the 1920s through the university’s archives.
Aside from the vintage décor, The Speakeasy features modern services and amenities.
“There are two separate areas,” Caro said. “One side has high tables and a bar area and the other side has a functional fireplace and several small tables where you can sit. There is also a white board that can be used for academic purposes.”
Caro said there are plans to use the space for more graduate student events in the future.
“As we have more events as a student government, we’ll have more events down in The Speakeasy,” Caro said. “Some will be more informal events and some will be diversity related events.”
There are plans in the works, Caro said, to use the space as it relates to current events, including holding viewings of the World Cup in June.
The purpose of the building expands beyond social use, as the space can also be used for academic purposes, Harris said.
“I took a couple of people from my department to let them see what it’s all about,” Harris said. “My professors love the idea.”
Castillo said the bar is now open from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“This is the first time that we have a space dedicated to graduate students and it’s very important that we have a community of graduate students on campus where everyone feels welcome,” Caro said. “This is a place where we can have that happen.”