News  Students demand a student-run cafe on campus

SSMU and an inter-faculty initiative work towards proposals

Since the closure of the Architecture Café in the fall of 2010, demand for a cafe run by students and for students has prompted SSMU to take action towards realizing such a project on campus.

Following the closure of the Arch Café – and subsequent student demonstrations against the administration’s role in turning the cafe’s former location into a study area – SSMU VP Finance and Operations Shyam Patel told The Daily that demand has risen for a space managed by students and independent from corporate ties.

Patel has been involved in the planning for a potential student-run cafe.

“A student–run cafe will happen for sure; if not, I will resign,” Patel said. “It is something students care about and even the University criticizes us for not having a student-run cafe.”

Financial concerns are at the forefront of discussions regarding the development of a student-run cafe. Financial mismanagement was among problems cited by the McGill administration as cause for the closure of the Arch Café.

Patel described a student-run cafe as being a worthwhile investment.

“I think in the past there was some hesitancy about finances, but right now we are in a position in which we are financially more sound and able to move forward, so this is the perfect opportunity,” he said.

A cafe would join a short list of existing student-run food services at McGill. Since its creation in 2002 under the name of The Food Club, Midnight Kitchen (MK) is one of the most prominent student-run food services at McGill.

Carol Fraser, SSMU VP Clubs and Services and former volunteer coordinator for MK, spoke about the presence of a student-run food service on campus.

“It is really important to create a community… It needs to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome, and wants to come back,” Fraser said.

Students are involved in the planning process through a SSMU working group, which Patel is a part of, to develop a proposal for the student-run cafe.

“Anyone can join. We have one councillor, but to be honest, most of the members are outside of SSMU – not councillors, not executives,” said Patel of the working group. He cited the group’s research as being helpful to the eventual creation of the cafe’s business proposal.

An alternate proposal for the project will be created by the Inter-Faculty Case Competition in Sustainability (IFCCS), which is sponsored by SSMU. The idea for the competition originated last year out of discussions between undergraduate faculty presidents.

Omer Dor, chair of IFCCS, explained that this group would work independently from the SSMU working group, and would try to find the most sustainable operating practices for a student-run cafe.

“The main objective is to create a collaboration from students across McGill to work on an issue that is pertaining to sustainability [particularly in] the student-run cafe,” said Dor.
The competition aims to design a proposal for a student-run cafe that is “innovative and implementable,” including a business report and model for the project.

Patel spoke about student reaction to the creation of the SSMU working group and IFCCS case competition.

“Many people…are interested in when we will have the student-run cafe,” he said. “It’s going to be two years from now… This year is going to be used to plan things.”