Campus Cafés Face Challenges Reopening

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Jordan Mowday

Parks Café sits empty, awaiting the return of food services.

Touted on the campus website as “an airy cafeteria with large windows, an espresso stand, and seating for more than 300 to eat, study, and socialize,” what is Parks Café being used for as of late? Not very much, since its closure due to COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020. With more students and staff now returning to EvCC’s campus, some have wondered when food services will be reinstated as well.

A lock keeping the coffee stand in Whitehorse Hall closed, hopefully for not much longer. (Jordan Mowday)

A midday stroll through the facility feels eerily quiet, with only a handful of students making use of the spacious lounges these days. Parks Café wasn’t the only on-campus closure, as both Bargreen’s Coffee Co. locations in Parks Student Union and Whitehorse Hall closed simultaneously. Gates remain locked in front of the shops, appearing untouched since the start of the closures.

While the initial reasoning behind the closure is fairly apparent, circumstances surrounding the service’s reopenings have proven to be a little more hazy. Erica Dias, Executive Director of Facilities & Operations for EvCC, shared some of the hurdles the school has faced along the way. “Both the coffee and cafe operations are run by independent businesses and are not operated by EvCC,” Dias stated in an email. “During the pandemic, our vendors Bargreen Coffee and Epic Catering Company, each made the decision not to renew their agreements with the college. EvCC is currently seeking new coffee and cafe vendors.”

Therein lies a second obstacle, following the departure of Pat Sisneros as EvCC’s Vice President of College Services, a position which has yet to be filled. “Food and coffee vendors are coordinated by the Vice President of College Services and the College Services staff,” Katherine Schiffner, EvCC’s Director of Public Relations, explains. The responsibilities of the vacant role are currently dispersed between members of EvCC’s College Services staff on top of their usual workload.

Before the closures, Gabriel Johnson-Wesley said that Parks Café was much more boisterous than it is today. (Jord)

Gabriel Johnson-Welsey, a student who has been here since before the closures, still makes use of the lounges across from the café. Frequenting these common areas between classes, Johnson-Welsey is likely one of the few students still on campus that have seen what it was like before. “It’s definitely much quieter now, it initially was pretty boisterous,” he shared. Aside from the shift in ambiance, Johnson-Wesley suggests the café’s amenities are missed as well. Referring to the expected return of food and drink services he said, “If they were here I’d definitely make use of them.”

Lack of vendor involvement paired with the departure of Sisneros has hampered any plans to reopen the facilities just yet. However, the College Services staff is working toward bringing back food services for everyone on campus. “We hope to reopen the coffee stand for Summer quarter and the cafe for Fall quarter,” Dias shared.

EvCC students have adapted to the closures in a number of ways since returning to the campus, whether it be stopping to grab food on the way in or preparing food in advance. In the meantime, Schiffner reminds hungry students that the campus bookstore has a variety of fresh food, snacks and drinks available for purchase. For those seeking further information regarding food service on campus, email [email protected]