Dry campus no more?

LUIS LOPEZ / AGGIE

The Gunrock plans to serve alcohol on campus once again

A look at the Yelp page for the Gunrock Pub shows that the on-campus bar and grill has closed. In its place now sits The Gunrock, a revamped version of the former pub. What’s different? Besides the new flooring and outdoor patio, The Gunrock is a completely dry establishment — for now.

In June of 2016, UC Davis made the decision not to renew its 46-year contract with vendor Sodexo and instead opted to internalize its dining services.

Sodexo held the alcohol license for the Gunrock Pub, which permitted the restaurant to serve alcohol for decades. The termination of the contract with the university’s primary food vendor also took away its alcohol license, giving the Gunrock Pub no choice but to change its name and rewrite its menu.

The Gunrock Pub closed for the entire summer of 2017 and opened back up that fall as The Gunrock. The name change was the university’s idea, said Keith Luke, manager of The Gunrock.

“The name [The Gunrock Pub] was coined and phrased by Sodexo,” Luke said. “That was kind of their thing, and campus didn’t really want us to be associated with the pub aspect.”

Management of the former bar has been working out a way to bring the pub-like spirit back, however, with a new contract with an outside vendor. Popular Sacramento eatery Capitol Garage is planning on taking over all alcohol sales at The Gunrock.

This transition to dual-vendorship has not been a quick and easy process for The Gunrock because of the licensing logistics to sort through.

“It’s just a different process because we will be running the food operations and doing the food sales, and they [Capitol Garage] would be doing solely the alcohol sales,” Luke said. “Two people can occupy the same space, but the person who holds the alcohol license is responsible for all the food sales. They can subcontract that to another company, but the liability is held under the alcohol license.”

This type of permit is difficult for an establishment in The Gunrock’s situation because a sole proprietor or private company, in this case Capitol Garage, is not legally allowed to sublease or sublet business to a state-run facility. Because food and dining services are now managed exclusively by the university, they are now classified as state-run.

However, this did not stop the partnership between Capitol Garage and The Gunrock from moving forward. Gia Hellwig, the director of operations for Capitol Garage, said that the extra hoops to jump through would be worth it in the long run.

“We’re used to working with the ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control],” Hellwig said. “There are definitely some unique requirements because it’s a college campus establishment, but we basically are just dealing with that extra paperwork and waiting for their approval in the meantime.”

Hellwig said the biggest challenge thus far has been brainstorming how to market effectively to a wide audience.

“Hopefully we will be able to generate interest once we get the word out there,” Hellwig said. “Any kind of market would be great — we’re looking forward to welcoming undergraduates, faculty and alumni to The Gunrock.”

Third-year history major Alexandra Wildman commented on the reintroduction of alcohol sales at The Gunrock, expressing her hopefulness for the restaurant.

“I’ve always wanted to try The Gunrock, but have yet to make it over there” Wildman said. “I feel like selling beer and wine will be a huge incentive for students to opt to have lunch or dinner on campus, as opposed to going somewhere downtown.”

Both Luke and Hellwig reported that they are anticipating opening The Gunrock for alcohol sales in January, although the contracts should be finished before then.

“Given the time frame of holidays with Thanksgiving and then December break, we may just choose to hold off and start fresh in January,” Luke said.

Opening at the very beginning of Winter Quarter would provide a clean slate for the rollout of The Gunrock’s new alcoholic menu, which will feature eight different taps of local beer and cider as well as wine made by UC Davis alumni. Hellwig commented on the January opening, saying “we want to do it and we want to do it right, and we’re really looking to working with local breweries.”

 

Written by: Claire Dodd — campus@theaggie.org