Date Posted: May 30, 2011
Date Printed: May 27, 2011
Dust off your lunch bags, UFV students – as confirmed in a statement by Student Union Society president Carlos Vidal, the Abbotsford campus’ licensed restaurant Casey’s has officially closed for the summer as of May 19. Vidal explained that the reason for the closure was fiscal in nature, noting: “The Board felt that the cost of keeping it open for those three months was too great, especially when there isn’t enough patronage to even break us even [during regular semesters].”
It’s true that Casey’s is not a money-maker, especially in the less-attended summer months. Numbers from SUS show a rising deficit of $67,000 for the year of 2010/11 (due in part to operating with a Food Primary license). But what about the gap that Casey’s will leave for hungry students?
Business student and Baker House resident Jane Parkhomenko said she and her friends will feel the loss of the restaurant. “I eat only at Casey’s. I don’t even go to the [cafeteria] at all. Everything’s horrible and the prices are bad.” Casey’s Assistant Manager Joshua Schoenberger also recognized a need for affordable food on campus: “Unfortunately there’s not many places close by, not a lot of cheap food options.”
SUS has a solution to the new food deficit on campus, however: they will be providing dinners for students on Thursdays at University House, much like the community dinners which took place over the winter semester.
Communication Administrator Jhim Burwell explained that the UFV Community Food Coalition “is a brainchild based on the idea that Casey’s is closing [and that] Sodexo offers sometimes limited hours through the summer.” He added that the CFC will consist of “one meal or a couple meals a week that’s hopefully going to be offered to students on a free or nominal price basis so that if they happen to be on campus and they want to get some food, they can.” He expects the program will run “throughout the summer, as long as students are taking advantage of it.”
But will weekly dinners replace the social space that Casey’s has come to be known as for students? For some – like Parkhomenko – the issue isn’t just about food. “A lot of friends are here and this is the place for us to meet. This is the place where we all go to chill out. It will be horrible.”
Staff member Adrianna Toews also thought that the university needs a licensed restaurant for students to socialize in: “People can sit down at Casey’s and have a beer with people and get to know each other. I think if we just had a restaurant with no licencing, we wouldn’t have the same clientele.”
Vidal and the SUS stand by Casey’s as a social hub on campus, stating that the establishment “is a great thing that [SUS] all enjoys and… feel[s] is important for the Students, but keeping it open in the Summer really creates a deficit that we can’t justify carrying,” adding that “the SUS is all about Social Spaces on Campus. We provide them as much as we can, and in some cases, fight to establish or maintain them.”
“There is every intention to open Casey’s in the Fall – full force, full throttle, and in the best shape it’s ever been,” Vidal said about Casey’s future. But some of the staff seemed unsure. Schoenberger shared: “My return to Casey’s is up in the air,” and Toews expressed concerns about her ability to find work for the rest of the summer, noting: “if you want to come back here in September, nowhere’s going to hire you for just two months.” She added that “[SUS] haven’t given us any direction, or [told us] if we can come back.”
The problem of poor participation in student life is a known one, with no obvious solution. Vidal is clear that this decision was not made without deliberation, stating: “We’re trying to be responsible with their money, despite our personal preferences – which would be to keep Casey’s open.” For now, students should make a point of enjoying the weekly dinners offered by the Student Union Society. The first dinner was held at U-House on May 26 and included free burgers; the next dinner will be hosted by the Chinese Culture Club on June 2.