After a temporary closure due to the pandemic, The Barn’s Patio Bar is once again serving up ice-cold beers, and plans are underway to fully reopen UC Riverside’s iconic dining and entertainment venue in the coming months.
Located in the Barn’s courtyard, the Patio Bar reopened Oct. 4 and is operating Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Customers can order from 12 taps at the walk-up window, including signature UCR citrus-infused beers made with fresh fruit picked from UCR’s Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection. Limited snacks are also on the menu.
David Henry, executive director of Housing, Dining, and Hospitality Services, said a phased reopening is planned for the rest of the dining complex. He hopes to have it fully open by winter quarter, but timing is dependent on the ability to hire enough staff.
“We feel like we need to open up when we can do it right, so it provides you with the experience you’ve been waiting for and expect,” Henry said.
For many on campus, it will be their first opportunity to visit the Barn since it underwent a renovation and expansion that began construction in 2018.
The 18,500-square-foot facility, triple the size of the original Barn, has two outdoor patios; a main dining hall with four counters offering different food options; a faculty/staff lounge called the Stable; and an outdoor stage for live entertainment.
The new Barn opened its doors in July 2020, a few months after the pandemic began when much of the campus community was studying and working off campus. Due to operating losses, it closed by the end of the year.
Staffing shortages has been the key issue for the Barn and other campus dining establishments, just as they have been for the restaurant industry nationally. Over the last 18 months, Dining Services staff members faced multiple rounds of layoffs while student workers returned home.
It’s been a tough process rebuilding staff for the whole department, which is normally over 125 cooks, custodians, and other food service professional staff and supervisors, and 900 student workers, Henry said. Many of the professional staff positions remain vacant and only around 600 student workers have been hired so far. Due to the large number of new staff joining the department, training is taking a considerable amount of time and effort, he said.
For now, Dining Services has concentrated its staffing at the Glasgow Residential Restaurant, which has proven popular with student residents. Other dining venues like the Barn will open as more employees are hired.
Opening the Patio Bar is the first of a four-phased plan for the Barn, Henry said. The second phase, beginning Oct. 13, will include adding more appetizers and food items to the Patio Bar menu. The third phase will be opening the Stable with a limited menu and limited hours, followed finally by reopening the main dining hall.
The bar was easier to open as it is operated by lease with an outside vendor who hires its own manager and bartenders, Henry said. Dining Services is supplying the staff to maintain the courtyard and the bathrooms.
The Barn will also soon make use of its new outdoor stage and bring back live entertainment. The venue is seeking local performers who can play music in the background for a coffeehouse-type mood.
Henry said he hopes the campus community will enjoy the Barn as a place to relax and socialize with colleagues and they’ll see the gradual improvements in the coming months.
“This is just the beginning of a lot of great things to come,” he said. “We designed a beautiful restaurant that has promise to impress. I don’t want to do anything less than impress.”