On the Rocks to reopen Oct. 18, as liquor permit pending

Chatwan Mongkol and Jacklyn Pellegrino

After facing closure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Quinnipiac University’s on-campus pub will reopen on Oct. 18, regardless of the bar’s alcohol permit status.

The university applied for a liquor cafe permit with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) on May 13. Caitlin Anderson, director of DCP’s Liquor Control Division, told The Chronicle that the application is pending, and the DCP has not submitted it to the Liquor Control Commission (LCC) for consideration.

Despite pending a liquor permit from the state, Quinnipiac will open its on-campus pub, On the Rocks, on Oct. 18. (Daniel Passapera/Chronicle)

Quinnipiac Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett said the university is finalizing the documents for the permit, and he anticipates receiving the approval before the opening. 

Kaitlyn Krasselt, the DCP’s communication director, told The Chronicle there is not an expected date for the application submission to LCC yet. She said the length of the process depends on the complexity of the application. The next hearing the commission will hold is on Oct. 21, but it’s not for Quinnipiac, which means the university most likely won’t get the permit before the opening.

However, Ellett said the pub will open nonetheless.

“We’re excited,” Ellett said. “We’ll probably do two to three nights a week and then augment it with special nights such as game nights.”

The permit Quinnipiac looks to obtain allows the mixed usage operation, which means both students of age and underage can be in the space, but students under 21 can’t be in the bar area. Ellett said the university is still waiting for the permit before determining what kind of alcohol the pub will serve.

On the Rocks will feature live entertainment, including live bands, comedians, magicians, DJs, acoustics and karaoke, according to the permit application The Chronicle obtained from the DCP through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said the university spent approximately $1 million designing, constructing and furnishing the pub.

Megan Fonseca, a senior advertising and integrated communications major, said she is excited about On the Rocks reopening because she lived on York Hill last year, and it was an amenity she would have wanted to use.

On the Rocks opened for the first time on Feb. 29, 2020, before it closed from COVID-19 precautions. (Daniel Passapera/Chronicle)

“I think it should be pretty exciting at least for me personally because we got sent home… so no one got to use it, which was kind of upsetting,” Fonseca said.

The university can do a lot with the space, Fonseca said, especially broadcasting popular sports games such as those against Yale University where not everybody gets tickets. 

Despite having an on-campus pub, Fonseca said she will still go out to nightlife venues in New Haven because they are “two different environments and two different atmospheres.” 

Melina Maldonado, a first-year media studies major, said even though the on-campus pub will not stop her from going to New Haven, it’s a great add-on to the university. 

“Having On the Rocks on campus would definitely interest me because I can take the shuttle there from the main campus (where she lives) and not have to spend money on an Uber,” Maldonado said.

The space allows both students of age and underage, but only students over 21 can be in the bar area. (Daniel Passapera/Chronicle)

Ellett said student organizations can host events at the pub as well, but they will be charged a fee. He did not say how much the fee is, but it will be waived if the clubs meet the minimum threshold of the amount of food that needs to be sold.

The university is working with the Student Programming Board (SPB) and other organizations on holding events in the space, Ellett said. SPB President Shannon Flaherty said she hasn’t heard anything about the fee and that SPB typically doesn’t have to pay to host events on campus.

Flaherty said she found out last week that On the Rocks is accessible to SPB. Potentially, she said SPB will move its late-night programs to the pub, as well as host watching parties for sporting events at On the Rocks.

“In the past, we have streamed the Yale game, but obviously since that is over holiday break, that’s not as doable since no one will be here,” Flaherty said. “But it is definitely a possibility to do Quinnipiac games, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, especially because we don’t have football on campus.”

Maldonado said she would like to see On the Rocks host events after sports games so she could go to a hockey or basketball game and then walk over to the Rocky Top Student Center and hang out with friends.

The university is still waiting for the permit before determining which specific kinds of alcohol will be served at On the Rocks. (Daniel Passapera/Chronicle)

Even though On the Rocks is a space for events, Ellett said the university looks to make it another destination for food and gathering. Students can use meal points to buy food there but not alcohol.

“(Chartwells) has created a specialized menu for the location, which would be different offerings than anything that would be offered in the dining halls from a menu standpoint,” Ellett said.

The pub will serve kitchen sink nachos, carnita quesadillas, bang bang bao, loaded tots, buffalo chicken wedge salads, “Q” cobb salads, sliders, Bavarian pretzels and chicken wings, according to the menu The Chronicle obtained through FOIA.

On the Rocks opened to the public on Feb. 29, 2020. It was an initiative the Student Government Association 2019 senior class cabinet pushed forward. The pub was in the original concept for the Rocky Top Student Center. It never reopened after the university closed because of COVID-19.

Update 10/21/2021: On the Rocks received a liquor cafe permit on Oct. 20, and it will remain active until Oct. 19, 2022. The pub served alcohol for the first time in the evening of Oct. 21.