Following extensive renovations, the privately owned Bocadillo has been pushed out to make way for a new student-run food service, which opened August 24. Together with the Nest, the new food service will make up the student-run cafeteria (SRC) on the second floor of the Shatner Building.
The new food operation will serve salads, soups, pizza, burgers, french fries, sandwiches and more. Burgers and sandwiches cost between $6.75 and $8.50, depending on the toppings, while soup and salads run in the $3 to $4 range. Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Finance and Operation Zacheriah Houston explained that the food will be affordable, underscoring that the mission of the SRC is “to provide high-quality meals at an affordable price.” However, McGill meal plans are not accepted.
The decision for a new student-run food service follows a mandate set out by a motion passed at SSMU Council in March. Confidentially discussed, the motion resolved that “the SSMU remove all commercial tenant activity in the University Centre,” in an effort to “prioritize student endeavours above any other taken up in the SSMU space.”
At the moment, however, the extent to which this motion will be implemented is unclear. SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained to The Daily that “the motion had no established timeline outlined when it was originally passed,” and that “any plans for logistics or implementation would also need to be reviewed and discussed by Council prior to making any decisions.”
With regards to commercial activity in the Shatner Building and the corporatization of campus in general, Bialik said she would not be able to comment at this time.
Houston argued that the new initiative has both positive and negative financial consequences. In an email to The Daily, Houston explained, “The removal of the second-floor commercial tenants had an unfavourable impact on the building budget, as it resulted in decreased revenue. In February, ‘business rent’ was budgeted for $216,000 in revenue. Now, in the July revision of the 2015-16 budget, it is budgeted for only $145,000 in revenue.” Still, Houston believes that the decrease can be offset by revenue generated from the new food operation, which is budgeted to earn a profit of $64,000.
“It allows us to be a more tight-knit community, it allows us to give things to students, allows us to improve.”
Edward McCrady, a cashier among the approximately 35 staff members which include Gerts kitchen staff, welcomed another student-run food initiative on campus. “It allows us to be a more tight-knit community, it allows us to give things to students, allows us to improve,” McCrady told The Daily.
On implementing the SSMU Council resolution and removing the remaining commercial tenants, McCready argued that “as long as they’re good business, I wouldn’t say anything about having them removed. As long as they’re making money for SSMU and McGill, and being successful businesses that provide students with healthy options and cheap options, that’s good.”
According to information from a presentation to Council by last year’s VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley, commercial tenants account for approximately 86 per cent of annual sales in the building. Now that Bocadillo and Bamboo Bowl have left the Shatner Building, La Prep (approximately 55 per cent of annual sales) and Liquid Nutrition (approximately 8 per cent of all sales) are the only commercial tenants left, excluding the vending machines.
Jonathan Taylor, the owner of Liquid Nutrition, when asked about the place of private commercial activity in student-run spaces, said, “Franchises like ours have a lot to offer. […] I think it would be a shame if we [were] pushed out.”
“At the end of the day, people like diversity. […] If you force something on somebody, you’re going to end up with a pretty empty building […]; that’s my gut feeling,” Taylor said.
Taylor would like to renew Liquid Nutrition’s lease, which expires in June 2016, but has yet to begin negotiations with the incoming SSMU executive. La Prep’s lease is also set to expire in June.
For now, the future of the SRC remains unclear. Given that the renovation of the second floor of the Shatner building “required a significant capital investment,” Houston “would like the SRC to remain for the foreseeable future.”
Houston noted that ultimately, “as is the case with all other SSMU projects, the future of the SRC is still contingent upon positive feedback from students and the financial feasibility of the cafe.”