For decades, The Vous (short for Rendezvous Inn) — later renamed the Cornerstone Bar and Grill — has been a popular dining and drinking institution in College Park, Maryland.
While most college relationships might not last very long, the one between this drinking establishment and students at the University of Maryland has. But the pandemic is threatening to break that up.
For the last two academic semesters and the summer in between, various restrictions have reduced the crowd size allowed inside. It’s been nearly a year since the bar was filled with students standing shoulder to shoulder trying to create hazy memories of life in college. And new restrictions are about to take effect at a time when students are heading home for a long winter break.
“A lot of people think when you own a restaurant or a bar that you’re a millionaire,” said Mark Srours, the owner of Cornerstone. “I wish that was the case. We have bills just like anybody else, property taxes and the list goes on and on.”
The pandemic has taken a toll.
“Going from a certain amount each month when you’re full blown 100% to nobody in your business — that money goes down really quick,” he said. “You still keep on paying your bills, but you don’t have hardly any income coming in. As the scale tips the opposite way, in the red instead of the black, it’s pretty devastating.”
At its peak, he employed close to 90 people between kitchen staff, bartenders, wait staff and people working the door. After another round of layoffs he’s down to about 10, and so this week Srours started a GoFundMe page hoping to raise enough money that would keep the bar going through the winter months when it’s too cold to serve customers on the patios outside.
Hundreds of people have already chipped in, helping Cornerstone approach its target goal of $75,000 in just a couple of days time. As of Friday afternoon, more than $63,000 had been donated.
“I can’t tell you how much I want to thank the Terrapin alumni and students that are helping out,” Srours said. “It means a lot.”
Alumni from all over the country have donated, reaffirming the connection they have with the bar.
“We’ve created so many memories,” said Srours. “And it shows for them, with the GoFundMe, people giving, because they can think of their memories of The Vous or Cornerstone. There’s just memories — people met their wives and husbands and their business partners and the list goes on and on.
He estimated that hundreds of thousands of relationships have been forged there over the years, and thanks in part to the outpouring of support he’s gotten online, he’s optimistic that the bar will survive the next couple of months to endure for several more decades.
“We’ve just got to get through the cold weather,” said Srours.