The Grad Club


The Grad Club at Queen’s has long had a reputation for being a social space for the university’s graduate student community and a place to host everything from meetings and tutorials to fundraisers and live music events. But the Club’s current location is actually the third incarnation of a campus home for graduate students, and its history illustrates the Grad Club’s importance to the student community at Queen’s.

A Kingston institution since 1963!

The story that follows highlights the movement of Grad Club founders, members, and leaders accross three separate physical locations in the Queen's University area. However these locations share a history much older than either the Grad Club or Queen's University, united by the history of the land traditionally home to the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek peoples. The Grad Club recognizes its own colonial heritage not only in occupying the land but in its relationship with the land's inhabitants. By acknowledging its role in the history, present, and future of the indigenous peoples who inhabit this land the Grad Club endeavours to build a new, stronger relationship with all of the diverse communities who enrich the territory today.

Stuart Street Grad House

After the founding of the Queen’s Graduate Student Society (now the Society for Graduate and Professional Students or SGPS) in 1962, the group began seeking a space to hold cultural and social events for the school’s 350 grad students. The following year, the GSS was offered the use of a small university property on Stuart St. that was the home of the “Grad House” until 1969. Furnished through donations from students, faculty and staff, the building also housed several grad students in its upper floor bedrooms. Of great importance for many students, however, was the installation of a vending machine stocked with bottles of beer for 25 cents!

The space provided a social centre for Queen’s grad students, providing entertainment in the form of impromptu guitar jams and dancing on the ground floor and the beginning of a unique spirit which would continue in to the next century.

A house on the move...

As the Queen’s graduate student community grew, the Stuart St. House started to feel a bit cramped and the search for a larger location began. In 1969, the Grad House was moved to 157 King St. East, a former residence for Army commanding officers. The larger space could accommodate 11 residing students and featured a room on the ground floor set aside exclusively for live music. The beer cooler remained a fixture at the House (albeit with a slight price increase – three bottles for a dollar still isn’t bad!) and, for the first time, the Grad House began serving food and draught beer.

While the extra space was nice, the King St. location was not centrally located and in need of extensive renovations. When the lease expired in 1976, the Grad House moved to its current location on Barrie St, a classic Victorian house that was granted heritage status in 1994. Another major change in 1976 was the formal incorporation of the Queen's Grad Club as a member-owned non-profit organization.

Three years later, the Club acquired full use of the duplex at the corner of Barrie and Union and it was here, across from the historic Kingston Courthouse and City Park, that the space took on its now legendary “Grad Club” name and continued with many of the traditions initiated at its previous two locations.

Grad Club Veranda

A preferred live music venue!

Grad Club Piano

With the sounds of guitars and pianos from the old Houses still echoing across campus, the new Grad Club rekindled the tradition of live music as a major part of grad student life. An open mic night has long been a staple of the Club’s events, though it has transitioned through various forms, and the ground floor concert space is renowned as a venue to see both up and coming Canadian acts and established artists looking to play smaller and more intimate shows.

In fact, CBC Radio listeners named the Grad Club one of the Top 10 Canadian music venues in 2009, which is not surprising given that the Club has played host to some of the country and Kingston's most celebrated acts!

The Grad Club has continue to expand upon its original goals of providing a space for community and collaboration, adding a weekly Trivia Night and monthly Ideas on Tap Speaker Series to its regular services. Various clubs and community groups continue to use the Grad Club's space for a variety of activities including meetings, events, talks, fundraisers, and more. The construction of the outdoor patio space has provided a common ground for a broad spectrum of the summer community to enjoy the Kingston sunshine and relax after a round of softball in nearby City Park.

Unique people, unique beer!

While the days of 25 cent vending machine beers are a thing of the past, today the Grad Club is renowned for its excellent selection of craft beers and ciders. Indeed, particularly when it comes to beer, the Grad Club has been ahead of the curve – showcasing microbreweries long before it was trendy and featuring a rotation of draught beer from some of Canada’s finest microbreweries (including many from Kingston and the surrounding area). This outstanding assortment of craft beer and cider is paired with an extensive menu of fresh, home-cooked food options that make the Club a prime destination for both the Queen’s and Kingston communities.

The welcoming spirit of the Grad Club is continued not only by our membership but further by a dedicated staff which have come to love and appreciate the old house as much as the history of the Club and its unique and diverse community.

Grad Club Bar

In spite of its humble beginnings, the Grad Club has become a local institution with a proud history of providing a welcoming and inclusive social space for students and non-students alike. Be part of this Kingston tradition – stop by the Club today and see what’s on tap!

*Want to read more about the history of the Grad Club? Check out this excellent article by Andrea Gunn from a 2009 edition of the Queen’s Alumni Review.