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Coffeehouse denied bid for Brochstein

By David Rosales     5/16/10 7:00pm

This summer, business will change at the Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion. Though Associate Vice President for Housing and Dining Mark Ditman declined to discuss the performance of Dirk's Coffee, which currently occupies the space, or even acknowledge their termination, Student Association President Selim Sheikh said plans to find a replacement business are underway.Dirk's is currently operating there in the second year of a five-year contract, but such contracts typically contain a clause for grounds of termination, either with or without cause, as well as a clause about certain performance expectations, Ditman said.

"H&D has been in serious negotiations with an independent business to become the provider for Brochstein for about six months now, and they're coming close to sealing the deal," Sheikh, a Martel College senior, said.

An official announcement about the decision and the identity of the business replacing Dirk's is expected from the administration in the coming weeks, Sheikh said.

Coffeehouse, the student-run business that officially began in 1990 in the dining room west of Sammy's, wanted to be a part of these discussions, according to Interim Manager Erin Rouse, because of a need for space due to the growth they have experienced lately.

Coffeehouse saw its highest-grossing month ever in November, with nearly $30,000 in revenue. On Feb. 23, Coffeehouse had its highest-grossing single day to date, with sales of $1,956. As the shop has expanded its products in recent years to include bagels and a variety of baked goods, finding enough storage space has become a challenge, Rouse said.

"We get exactly as many bagels as fit in Coffeehouse, and we're still sold out by noon most days," Rouse, a Wiess College senior, said.

If provided with additional space, Coffeehouse could offer even more kinds of food, such as toast, granola and fruit, she said.

Coffeehouse, which operates in a former utilities closet in the Rice Memorial Center, began collaborating with H&D two years ago in their search for additional space. An initial solution offered by H&D, the location in West Servery where the student-run late-night food business The Hoot now operates, failed to meet Coffeehouse's needs due to health code incompatibilities with the lack of sinks as well as a lack of sufficient storage. In the beginning of the school year, amid rumors of Dirk's contract expiring, Rouse talked to Ditman about the possibility of Coffeehouse eventually setting up shop in the pavilion. However, Rouse said that no agreement was made during this meeting.

H&D later denied Coffeehouse's request to submit a proposal for the space the second week of March. In an e-mail to Sheikh, Ditman explained the reasoning behind this decision.

"Primarily among [the reasons for the denial] is our need for an operator who can provide excellent food and beverage service and who also has a liquor license," Ditman said. "Because we have experienced many problems with student-operated liquor licenses and service at Valhalla and Willy's Pub, we cannot support the addition of another student-operated liquor license or liquor-serving location."

Ditman declined to comment on what specifically these problems were or how often they occur.

Sheikh expressed disappointment with the administration's response, particularly that Coffeehouse wasn't allowed to throw their hat in the ring.

"It's just pretty much disrespect for the student business in not allowing them to submit a bid for the space," Sheikh said. "Honestly, it'd be different if he allowed them to submit a bid but then explained reasons for not accepting it."

Psychology graduate student Jisoo Ock said he supports Coffeehouse's effort to expand beyond its current hole-in-the-wall location.

"I'd really appeciate it if Coffeehouse would get actually bigger, because when I come to get coffee around lunchtime, it's often crowded," Ock said. "It takes me awhile to get the coffee, but I still come here because I like the service. I obviously like the coffee better than the commercial coffeehouse we have currently at the pavilion.

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