A couple of weekends ago, at the end of the month of June, the Davis Graduate – known popularly as ‘The Grad’ – closed its doors for the last time. The Grad had been a Davis staple for decades. I mean, actual decades – it opened in 1972, meaning it is older than me. It’s a popular night-out dancing spot, and lots of people came here to watch sports in the daytime on one of the 467 TV screens (ok not that many but as you can see above, they have them all over the place, big and small). I remember coming here years ago early on a Saturday morning, before we had the Premier League in our cable package, and watching Spurs lose against Sunderland back in the bad old days when that would happen a lot, and you would get a little portable speaker to put on your table and just look toward whichever screen had your game on, while others watched Hockey, Golf, Curling or something even more obscure like West Ham. I have to be honest, I never really liked coming to the Grad, partly because every time I’d come to watch Spurs we would lose to some terrible team, but also because I could never feel that comfortable with those big wooden tables and benches and the screens all around, the food orders being called out over the microphone, the long line for the bar, and the lack of windows – when you walk back outside into the hot Davis brightness it’s a jarring feeling. On the few occasions we came here to watch World Cup or Euro matches, there was usually a big and noisy crowd, and the space always just felt awkward. So I never really came here that much, and I never came in the evenings when they would have their dance nights, because if I felt awkward when there was just sports and drink, adding dancing into the mix was never going to make it more appealing to me. However, I knew how much people loved the place, and when I first came to Davis people would always tell me I should go to the Grad, even people at other bars would say the same. I know someone who DJed there who has many fond memories, and I dare say that students over the years have as many great memories of the Grad as my old QMW cohort has of the Drapers Arms on the Queen Mary campus in Mile End (who am I kidding, we don’t remember anything…). I did sketch here a couple of times over the years, the last time being on a Sunday afternoon in 2013, when I draw a 1.3 page spread of the bar, while Marseille played Monaco on a screen next to Judge Judy. So on the very last Saturday of the Grad I came back, and sketched the scene above. My feelings about the Grad had not changed much, I still felt a bit awkward and closed-in, I had only the one drink because the line at the bar seemed really long (I didn’t mind that, I’m still on a diet), but there were lots of people there of all ages enjoying themselves and conversing. Lots of baseball caps. People playing pool away to my right, people eating burgers and fries, people drinking cold beer. I did sketch the outside one lunchtime a couple of weeks before, after I had heard that the Grad would be closing down. I stood in the shade of a tree on a very hot day, and this place was awkward to sketch even from the outside. Although I never went there very often, I am sad that the Grad is closing. This whole University Mall area will be redeveloped, a little bit of the old character of Davis will be lost, another drinking spot confined to the history books.
Here’s a good article in the UC Davis magazine with some old photos and memories from former students: https://magazine.ucdavis.edu/the-graduate-closes/