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Morris Inn looks to recover, refresh after pandemic

| Friday, October 29, 2021

 While the first year of the pandemic was chaotic for everyone, director of operations John Cheng said the Morris Inn had a particularly tumultuous time. Now, the Morris Inn is seeking to restore normalcy and is renovating to keep things fresh.

Spencer Kelly | The Observer
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Morris Inn has housed students unable to return back home, student athletes and students in quarantine and isolation.

When Notre Dame shut down in March 2020, the inn quickly transitioned to housing international students and anyone else who was unable to return home. Once the spring 2020 semester ended in May, the students left and the Morris Inn reopened to the public.

But two weeks later, they closed again in order to house student athletes who remained on campus during the summer. The athletes stayed there until the start of the fall semester in August 2020, after which they moved back to the dorms and the inn planned to open up again.

However, the spike in COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the school year prompted the University to turn the Morris Inn into a quarantine and isolation center. It housed quarantined and isolated students through the fall semester before finally opening to the public the week of Thanksgiving, and has remained open for business ever since.

While the inn is open for regular business, Cheng said operations are not necessarily back to “normal.”

“If you base it on the business that we receive, then yes, we are back to normal,” Cheng said. “But if you base it on the process that we have in place, then you can say that we are not back to normal yet.”

According to Cheng, the Morris Inn has continued their enhanced cleaning services for rooms. And, as with many public buildings on campus, masks are still required inside the inn. Cheng said these policies are unlikely to change within the next year.

However, some physical changes will be occurring at the inn. Cheng said they will soon be removing the gift shop adjacent to the lobby to add a coffee house.

The inspiration for this project is the Morris Inn’s mission of being “the living room of the University.” With their last significant renovation finished in 2013, they revamped the lobby to better resemble a living room, and added a fireplace, bookshelves and comfortable chairs.

Spencer Kelly | The Observer
The Morris Inn lobby was last renovated in 2013 to capture a living room feel.

“It has brought out a better feel, as far as creating the living room at the University,” rooms manager Kathy Seymour said. “It is actually one of [our guests’] favorite places to sit. On home games, you’ll always see people sitting there.”

Cheng said the new coffee house will further contribute the homey atmosphere of the inn. 

“The concept behind the coffee house is that this is the kitchen of the University,” Cheng said. “If you are a guest here, you go up to your room and you stay overnight, and in the morning you’ll come down to the kitchen to have a cup of coffee or pastry.”

Spencer Kelly | The Observer
The book store located to the left of the lobby will soon be replaced by a coffee house to further capture the homey feel of the Morris Inn.

To this end, the coffee house will be constructed to feel like a typical in-home kitchen: an open space with flat countertops and cupboards. The renovation will begin after this football season and its completion is planned in time for Junior Parents Weekend in February.

While the physical surroundings contribute, Cheng said it is really up to the Morris Inn staff to make a memorable stay.

“I think that for us, the concept of the living room of the University is not just the physical environment that the guests see,” Cheng said. “I think it is the host that is in the house welcoming the guests. It is the people and associates that work here, the love and care that they provide to the guests, that makes the guests anxious to come back here.”

This emphasis on people goes both ways. Cheng and Seymour both said that their favorite part about the Morris Inn is the guests. Seymour, who has worked at the inn since 2008, said she was reminded of this during the USC game weekend.

“This football weekend was really amazing for me because it was really the first football game that you saw people come back to the university after such a long COVID process,” Seymour said. “We wouldn’t be who we are without the guests.”

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