Willy’s Pub will remain closed for at least two weeks more after experiencing water damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Water accumulated in the floor of Willy’s Pub during the hurricane, resulting in its closure beginning on Aug. 25.
“Water managed to build up under the Rice Memorial Center and found a release from the pressure by going up through the floor,” Kat Iverson, Willy’s Pub operations manager, said. “At one point we were told that there was knee-high water.”
Pub must undergo serious repairs before it can pass inspection by the city of Houston. This includes tearing out and replacing sheetrock and the wall base as well as painting the space, according to Facilities Engineering and Planning Director of Project Management Ana Ramirez said.
Immediately after the storm, Rice hired a disaster response company, Blackmon Mooring, to tear out the damaged sheetrock and wall base and install dehumidifiers, fans and air cleaners to dry out the space, according to Ramirez.
Pub originally estimated in a Facebook post Sept. 4 that they would be closed for about two weeks following the storm. However, two weeks have passed and the rebuilding has not begun.
“It’s pretty frustrating for everyone involved,” Iverson, a Martel College senior, said.
According to Ramirez, FE&P has identified contractors and are currently finalizing the contract. Rodriguez said FE&P hopes to mobilize by the end of the week and expects a two week time frame for completion of the construction once the contractors begin their work.
Pub Marketing Manager Kari Brinkley said that she is frustrated because Pub employees are out of work until construction is finished.
“We’re not getting paid at all,” Brinkley, a Duncan College junior, said. “It’s just rough because that’s all of our income.”
This is not the first disaster that Pub has experienced.
In 1995 Willy’s Pub was doused in lighter fluid by a disillusioned Will Rice junior and set aflame, and all of Pub was destroyed besides a few beer lines and the charred sign that now hangs above the RMC stairway. According to a Thresher article published following the incident, the fire caused over $2 million in damages to the Rice Memorial Center. Pub was originally going to be scrapped until a group of students formed the Save Pub Club and garnered enough support to bring Pub back from the ashes.
In 2001 Tropical Storm Allison unleashed 38 inches of rain on Houston, compared to almost 52 inches in parts of Houston during Harvey. According to a Thresher article following the natural disaster, Pub took on several inches of water after it entered through the entrance to Farnsworth Pavillion.
According to Brinkley, the central social role that Pub fulfills is uniquely important for Rice students who live on campus.
“I personally like to stay on campus and not have to go out. I think it’s safer to be on campus and around people that you know,” Brinkley said.
McMurtry College sophomore Davis Nelso said residential colleges have stepped in to fill the gap in social life that Pub’s closure left.
“I think it would have been easy for many students to go to off-campus bars or social events, but many colleges organized social events to serve in place of Pub Night,” Nelson said. “Multiple McMurtry committees rallied together to throw a karaoke night last Thursday so everyone in the college could attend something fun and relaxing.”
Pub was only open for four nights this year, and some of their bartenders have not been trained yet. However, students can look forward to a celebration once Pub is restored to its former glory, according to Brinkley.
“We’re definitely trying to do syllabus week round two, you know, remind people that we still exist,” Brinkley said.
Note: A previous online version of this article mistakenly stated that the 1995 fire was started by a member of the Marching Owls Band.