Damage Closes Quincy Grille

With fryers turned off until next fall, managers hope to reopen with other offerings

Last year, students hungering for a late-night fried-food fix could quench their cravings at the Quincy Grille. But this year, a damaged ventilation duct has forced the popular student-run social spot to turn off its fryers until next fall and halt operations this year until a less greasy menu can be devised.

Contractors discovered the decay of the duct during summer renovations aimed at making Quincy the second handicapped-accessible house on campus, with Currier being the first.

The vent is “broken, full of flammable grease, and just plain dangerous,” Quincy House Master Robert P. Kirshner ’71 wrote in an e-mail to the Quincy House open list on Sunday.

“I don’t think anyone had taken a look at it since 1961 when Quincy was first built,” wrote Kirshner, who was a resident of Quincy House as an undergraduate.

The decaying vent has been identified as a fire hazard, worrying several administrators who recalled the Eliot Grille fire of November 2001. That fire forced all 430 Eliot House students to evacuate for an entire night and was deemed a “near-catastrophe” by then-Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68.

The ventilation equipment snakes its way through all eight stories of New Quincy, making its replacement complicated and expensive.

Quincy’s House Masters estimated the job will cost somewhere in the range of $100,000 and will be covered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) facilities department.

However, the work, which Kirshner described as a “big, take things apart, noisy, messy job,” cannot be undertaken until next summer.

“I wish it were possible to do the work now but it’s just not with students living there,” said Merle Bicknell, director of residential and academic buildings for FAS Physical Resources.

The thought of a year without the Grille has left many students upset, and some have vented on the House open list.

“One of the greatest amenities of living in Quincy is that we have a hugely popular late-night social center on campus,” Molly E. Mehaffey ’06 wrote on behalf of the Quincy House Committee (HoCo) last week. “Our Grille is in the main part of the house and is frequented by both Quincy kids and randoms alike.”

Students and the House Masters said they support re-opening the Grille with a menu of foods that don’t produce steam, smoke, and grease when prepared.

“In the short run we have to find something else to do, to get the fun of the Grille back, the socialization aspect,” Kirshner said. “I’m hoping that the Grille guys will get going on this. I am encouraging them.”

The “Grille guys,” Weston W. Quasha ’06 and David G. Clark ’07, who officially became Quincy’s Grille managers this fall, are primarily responsible for coming up with creative and cost-effective alternatives.

“Right now we’re trying to figure out exactly what kind of products we can offer while...generating enough revenue to pay employees,” Quasha said. “Our biggest seller in the past has been from the fryer which we can’t have under the present circumstances. Hopefully we’ll be able to sell things like sandwiches easily.”

The House Masters have offered to subsidize the costs of new equipment that the Grille managers may need to implement their solutions.

“When [Grille managers] are full of energy and want to do things we work really hard to try to accommodate them,” Kirshner said.

—Staff writer Nina L. Vizcarrondo can be reached at nvizcarr@fas.harvard.