As COVID-19 restrictions loosen due to the increased rate of vaccinations, post-secondary students are slowly finding their way back to social gatherings, bars, and pubs.
While most universities across Canada have not fully implemented in-person classes, students who have returned to campus have been hosting parties and frequenting nightlife establishments.
This has led to some controversy at institutions such as Dalhousie University, where the university administration has decried street parties attended by hundreds of people, and at the University of Western Ontario, where Orientation Week was marred by incidents of sexual and physical assault.
Nevertheless, events are still being held virtually. York Federation of Students (YFS) hosted its second virtual edition of YorkFest with activities hosted on Zoom. YorkFest wrapped up with a virtual concert featuring hip hop artists JID and Bas.
“YorkFest was so much fun this year! We’re really happy to say that it was incredibly well-received and went super smoothly,” states YFS Vice President of Campus Life Ashley D’Souza.
Regarding potential future in-person events, however, D’Souza states that YFS is still apprehensive of the notion due to the logistics involved in keeping students safe during the pandemic.
“We would love to host in-person events soon, but at this current point in time we do not feel comfortable with the current safety plans in place. We want to ensure that when we do make our return to campus, we’re doing so in a way that can better guarantee and ensure the safety of our members,” says D’Souza.
Despite this, York students as well as post-secondary students throughout the GTA are still going to social gatherings as permitted by the provincial government’s current restrictions.
At York’s Keele campus, the Absinthe Pub and Coffee Shop has opened its doors to customers for the first time in more than a year. However, Ian Pedley, manager of the establishment, is disappointed with how business is currently going.
“Business has been entirely underwhelming compared to before the pandemic. Sales are down about 75 per cent and staffing costs have risen since we now always need a person at the door to greet customers and perform the COVID-19 protocols outlined by the Ontario government. Not hopeful for the future of Absinthe if things continue to trend this way.”
The Absinthe Pub has been collaborating with Winters College to attract students, as well as offering more food and drink options. “Prices have remained very competitive compared to other venues on campus,” says Pedley.
Shopsy’s Bar and Grill at York Lanes has been replaced with the Timbers Lodge Social Grill. Meanwhile, the Underground at the First Student Centre remains closed for the fall term.