Conservatory’s Sky Bar Gets Facelift with New Menu

Ben Reid

Over the summer, the Lily McGregor Sky Bar — part of the newly constructed Bertram and Judith Kohl Building — experienced some welcome changes that, according to the new Assistant Dean of Technology and Facilities Michael Straus, are causing a “considerable amount of excitement” in the Conservatory.

Since it opened its doors in 2010, the Sky Bar has been a work in progress.

“It hasn’t been fully realized,” Straus said. “But I think this is the first step along the way of making it a favorable destination for students … [and] a quick stop for faculty members.”

According to Straus, the administration hopes to attract all Oberlin students, regardless of a College or Conservatory affiliation, and it is also open to all Oberlin community members, allowing them to pay in cash.

The new menu, according to Sophie Meade, a Sky Bar cashier and College junior, now boasts a brand new espresso machine, muffins, an assortment of fresh bagels and different flavors of tea, thanks to a new beverage vendor, Crimson Cup. Despite these changes, the Sky Bar is still operated and run by CDS. “We aren’t separate,” Nicholas Engelhardt, OC ’11 and assistant ensemble manager and assistant for academic operations, said. “We purchase all our coffee, tea and muffins through CDS who works with us and the outside vendor to make sure we have everything we need. We are treated the same, through CDS, as Azariah’s or DeCafé.”

With its new menu, the Sky Bar continues to maintain a commitment to locally sourced food: the muffins are made on campus, and the bagels are supplied by Bialy’s Bagels in Cleveland. “We’re sticking with the locally-serviced industry standards that [the College and CDS] have set,” Straus said.

Last year, the Sky Bar provided coffee under the honor system: students could pump their own coffee, but were required to put one dollar in a box. According to Straus, although the coffee now has a fixed rate, the price — one dollar per cup — will remain reasonable.

“We purposely made the prices as low as possible. We’re very much catering to the students,” Straus said.

The Sky Bar shares the top floor of the Kohl building with only departmental offices, so it lacks the foot traffic that the science cart enjoys. The management hopes to offset this by attracting students with more beverage and snack offerings. Meade predicts that the upgrades to the menu will attract far more customers than in previous years.

“Even though I didn’t come up here a lot last year, I probably will now since it’s only one floor above where I spend most of my time,” noted sophomore Conservatory jazz guitarist Michael Esber. Last year, Esber would walk down to Gibson’s and buy coffee or a snack while practicing in Kohl. Now, he realizes that the Sky Bar offers a more varied menu than before.

Some Conservatory students, like Esber, wish it were open later than 8 p.m. on a regular basis, as it would make grabbing a snack during late nights in Kohl — a common practice for many Con students — much easier. In response to this, Straus said that he was certainly open to having that conversation and he encourages students to come to him with any questions, comments or criticism they have about the Sky Bar.

The goal of these changes, Straus explained, is to fully realize the Sky Bar’s potential as a communal meeting space that brings students and faculty together.

“The thing I’m really excited [about] the Sky Bar is that it joins two buildings. It is literally a sky bar, hovering three floors above this wonderful little kind of architecturally landscaped area. For me, it’s just a [way] to bring Conservatory students together in a more intimate and maybe less formal atmosphere to study and work and have a creative, free exchange of ideas.”