Unfolding the history of NAIT’s campus bar & restaurant, Nest Eatery

by | Sep 22, 2022 | Arts & Life

NAIT students and staff love to swing by Nest Eatery to slam a cold one, chow down on some grub or wind down with friends after a long day, but have you ever wondered about the history behind NAIT’s campus bar? Since attending NAIT, I’ve heard numerous stories through the grapevine about the pub’s former location being on the top floor of a building, complete with a breathtaking view of the city, to being across the street to the Nest’s current location. Naturally, questions then arose about its name. From being called Nest Taphouse Grill, the Nest Bar to the Nest Lounge…how did our beloved campus bar evolve to its current glory, Nest Eatery?

After speaking with the Nest’s General Manager, Michelle Dirksen, it appears the bar first opened its doors in 1988 after a collaboration between NAITSA, the NAIT Board of Governors and the Alberta Government. 

“Students, staff and faculty wanted a place that they could mingle on campus and there really wasn’t a place other than the cafeteria and what not. They wanted to be able to unwind and perhaps have a nice cold beverage and a little snack,” said Dirksen. 

One of the new displays at Nest Eatery. Photo by Roy Raphael Navarro

As much as I hate to extinguish the flame of any good tale, the manager informed me that, in fact, the Nest has always been in this location. “Since 1988,” she said. Sure had me fooled. 

What has changed over the years, though, is that the bar has grown massively.  “[It’s] slowly sort of taken off from a small little hub into a full scale venue that hosts things like weddings, graduations, awards nights, speaker series, comedy shows and concerts,” said Dirksen. After undergoing multiple renovations over the years (cue the name changes as well), the bar gained the capacity to host such events. No longer restricting seating to 50 to 60 persons like in its former days, the bar can hold up to 200 people. Since the bar has more than doubled in size, it now has a lot more room to party.

And party, people have. Over the years, Nest has been host to many a fiesta, including being the starting location for NAIT’s classic Pirate Party on the Edmonton Queen riverboat.  

One of the bar’s most extensive facelifts was not too long ago either. Most overhauls generally involved the lounge and the kitchen area, but, in 2012, they did some major refreshing—from adding a fireplace, soft lounge and so forth. Prior to opening again this September, they spruced things up with new décor and a mural. 

The new mural at Nest Eatery, painted by Calgary artist Tyler Hochhalter. Photo by NAITSA

“Not everyone knows about us, but once you do get to know us, you’ll be back essentially.”

“This is truly a place on campus where there’s freedom. And I know that sounds a little strange, but the freedom to sit in the corner and hide if need be or get together and make new friends. It’s one of the most social places on campus, even though we’re this little hidden gem in a way,” Dirksen explained. 

“There’s a different vibe on campus this year, a different feel in the air. We learned so much, we know how to take care of some of these hazards. And really, it’s going to be a safe and enjoyable atmosphere here at The Nest.” 

 “We are looking forward to giving all of our guests a combination of excellent and trendy beverages in an environment that appeals to all,” she said.  

The Nest reopens to the campus community on September 6th at 10a.m., while Nest Fest, a free event, takes place on September 15th to 16th from 11a.m. to 6p.m. at the CAT QUAD. At Nest Fest, students can expect nothing less than cheap food, $3 beer and live music.

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