Campus hangout gets a modern makeover worth crowing about. The legendary pita sandwiches and affordable coffee remain the same.
Rooster’s Coffeehouse, the Unicentre’s spirited, upper-level student hub that has been everything from a pub to a cybercafé over the past four decades, has reinvented itself yet again.
Late in September, it reopened after a multi-month closing for $300,000 worth of renovations. Gone are the ratty blue couches and the orangey laminate floor, now replaced with stainless steel trim, white Corian countertops and a polished epoxy resin floor. It’s sleek, contemporary and bright. Deep black couches and easy chairs beckon; coffee-shop-style tables with white-and-lime chairs encourage communal eating; twin bar-like surfaces with high chairs and teardrop-shaped pendant lights above (think of a kitchen island) accommodate those chomp-and-run times.
“As we pulled off the layers, we realized it needed a complete overhaul,” said Rod Castro, business operations manager at the Carleton University Students’ Association, which owns the coffee house, on Rooster’s hectic opening day. “Everything was incredibly dated. Earlier renovations were just Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids.”
Noting that the popular menu, including BLTs and chili with a bagel, hasn’t changed, Castro rhymes off other impending updates, from a cozy stage area to recycling bins that include organic waste disposal.
Layout revisions are meant to shepherd the hungry hordes into a quick-moving, orderly lineup instead of spilling into the seating area as they once did.
Ottawa’s Hay Design devised Rooster’s new look. “We wanted to create an open, upbeat, exciting place for the students,” said Cathy Hay, the company’s president and principal designer. “They needed a place that was functional and creative.”
Commerce student Scott McGruer is among those pleased with the 2014 incarnation. “It’s better than it was last year,” he said. “Yeah, it’s more efficient.”
Journalism student and subsequent Ottawa Folklore Centre owner Arthur McGregor co-founded Rooster’s as a folk-music-style coffee house in 1971. In 2003, it was converted into a dry cybercafé after years as a pub. It went dry in part because of the influx of younger students when Ontario’s Grade 13 was eliminated. The computer terminals went out when the campus Wi- Fi network was established. These days, Rooster’s is meet-up central for students wanting to decompress, study or grab a quick bite.