Café 1175 status puzzles Webb Students

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Bianca Arteaga

Café 1175 sits in the northwest corner of Hooper, unused.

Dozens of students crowd in the center of the Hooper Student Center, playing thrilling video games and socializing on the new furniture. The only empty space in the room is Café 1175, on the northwestern side of the building.

The café intended to open last year and planned to serve students with beverages and pastries. However, as Webb enters its second month of classes, the café remains empty and deserted due to COVID-19 regulations and staffing shortages.

“A big reason why the café cannot open currently is that people are not allowed to eat in Hooper for everyone’s safety,” said Stephanie Baron, Director of the Health Center.

If everyone had their masks off indoors, eating and drinking, students would be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Another factor is that recently, the dining hall has opened more stations, such as the bagel bar, so there is not enough staff to run the café.

“We have been experiencing a bit of a staffing issue when it comes to the dining hall in particular, and they have just been understaffed for a good part of this year,” said Ken Rosenfeld, Dean of Campus Life. “Because CulinArt is going to help us by running Café 1175, priority went to making sure that the dining hall was up and running to feed the community.”

While staffing shortages are a major reason for why the café cannot open, there is another concern that is equally as important to note.

“The other part of it was, in all honesty, I just wasn’t quite ready for 1175 to open yet,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “There are a lot of moving parts and pieces, and we needed to make sure we were in a place where we would be able to run it properly, rather than just be open because the space is open. We didn’t want to go before we were ready, have some issues, have a negative experience, or have it not be sustainable.”

In preparation for the café’s opening this year, students should look forward to a variety of possible options. There is a multi-tiered response to the opening and introducing food and drinks.

Within the initial stages of opening, there will be only drinks. This includes espresso-based drinks, and possibly agua frescas and even a couple of boba experiences.

After the initial stage, locally produced baked goods will come in. The next stage will be working with restaurants and vendors to potentially have prepared food to serve the community. This is also beneficial because it will allow Webb to form partnerships with these local shops and expose Webb students to new places that they have not tried before.

“I don’t care what’s in the café, I’m going to eat it anyway,” Alfonso Alvarez-Seara (‘23) said.

However, in order to serve students, members of the dining hall, as well as Mr. Rosenfeld, will need to be present. Nevertheless, there is a long-term vision to use the café space for educational purposes. Unfortunately, because of liability issues, students cannot be employed; however, there are other opportunities for them to be involved with the café.

There is a hope that the space will benefit classes such as Honors Stories & Strategies of Entrepreneurs or Honors Economic Thought in the Modern Age: it could teach students how independent businesses operate, how they keep their books (budgeting, organization, etc.), how they keep inventory, how they set pricing, how they deal with customer service, and more.

Not only is the café going to provide delicious drinks and snacks and potentially serve as a learning tool for many Webb students, but it will also be promoting sustainability as all paying methods will be paperless. All major credit cards are allowed; however, cash will not be accepted, and student accounts will not be charged.

With so many exciting aspects of the café to look forward to, it is important to know and respect the circumstances as to why Café 1175 cannot open right now. As Webb works its way back to normalcy, the community must understand that getting on our feet will take time.

“I think it is important for [the Webb community] to be patient,” Josie Chow (‘22) said. “I don’t think we should rush opening the café, but me being a senior, being a little biased, [I] would love for the café to open right now so we can enjoy it as much as possible before we graduate.”

Mr. Rosenfeld thanks everyone for their patience and requests that if anyone has any hopes or recommendations for the café, to please contact him.

Webb students should begin anticipating Café 1175’s “soft-opening” when we return from Thanksgiving break. This means being open a couple of days a week with only drinks, but students should still feel excited that after many months of being a dormant space, the café will soon be open for the community to enjoy.

*Note: Ms. Baron is also related to Isaac Naren, a staff writer for the Webb Canyon Chronicle.