No Buzz at This Hive

Café Plans Stung by Reality

  • The final plan for The Hive Café, pictured above, includes a student-run bar and an extensive menu. Photo Benjamin Allard

At the end of last semester, the incoming CSU wanted to have The Hive open by this September.

The café was to be their answer to the lack of food choices for students on the Loyola campus, and would have provided a cheaper and healthier alternative to the monopoly Chartwells has on campus.

Originally, The Hive was going to be opened in phases.

It was to start off as a coffee and pre-made pastry café only, then move on to a full-fledged cafeteria-type establishment.
However, that’s no longer the case.

“We didn’t really see the point in opening it halfway,” said VP Loyola Crystal Harrison. “We’ve been figuring out how we want to operate and also how we want it to look—which all takes a lot of time.

“Fortunately, we’ve decided that it will be run by an independent student group, and ultimately not by the CSU. It’s going to bebased on a solidarity co-operative model. It will be founded by students, then there will be a board of directors that will start and operate the café.”

While the plan to work its way up gradually remains, the CSU also hopes to have more to offer students when the café opens, as coffee and limited pastries are already available at multiple Chartwells locations nearby, according to Harrison.

Chartwells is a subsidiary of Compass Group, the world’s largest cafeteria service operator in the world.

“Hopefully, there will be a lot of stuff that can be prepared behind the counter—some salads, smoothies, lots of coffee variations as well as to-go items. Sandwiches would be ideal,” Harrison said. “A little more complex than pastries and bagels, but not a full-fledged café either,” she continued, noting the lack of current access to kitchen facilities as one of the reasons for the delay.

Once it’s up and running, however, Harrison says the Hive “is supposed to be a healthy, cheap alternative for students on campus. It won’t be fully functional, but it will be more functional than [we previously planned for].”

If all goes accordingly to plan, the final stage will see a full café open all day long and offer full meals, as well as feature a student-run bar serving organic beer and wine.

“Ultimately, if we could prove to the school that a student-run café is capable of providing food to a large amount of students, us being incorporated into the meal plan would be awesome,” Harrison said.

Harrison added that she hopes that food at The Hive could eventually be paid for with “flex dollars,” an ancillary package part of residence students’ meal plans used to buy non-cafeteria food. Currently, only locations operated by Chartwells take flex dollars.

“It’s hard to say right now; a lot of stuff that we thought would be accomplished right now [isn’t]. There has kind of been some backtracking going on, making sure that we’ve been covering all of the bases,” she said.

As of right now, the CSU is hoping to open the first phase by January.

“But, it’s nerve-racking to say that will be the opening,” said Harrison. “You never know what will happen, but it helps us to have that timeline.”

A New Co-Operative

How exactly The Hive would operate was unclear until it was decided in early summer that it would be a “solidarity co-operative.”

“We spent a lot of time educating ourselves and debating about the proper governance,” said Benjamin Prunty, VP Sustainability. “Because it isn’t necessarily standard or intuitive that we would go for the solidarity model.

“Not only do we think it’s the most democratic model, but we’re existing within a context of turnover,” Prunty continued. “So there’s not a lot of institutional memory.”

In choosing the solidarity model, the CSU is aiming for a sustainable structure. The solidarity model means, essentially, that it will draw its membership from workers, supporting members and user members in order to represent diversity in the co-operative.

“We will elect the board, but then they can kind of steer it yearly and they can, of course, call an [annual general meeting] if they’re not comfortable with the way the organization is going.”

Right now, the CSU is looking to recruit a board of directors of a least nine members. Currently unconfirmed but potential board members include one faculty member, one student at large, one graduate student and two CSU executives. Looking for a board of directors will be the first step in the co-operative side of things.

The solidarity co-operative is a new form of co-operative, which is called the “multi-stake holder co-operative” outside of Quebec.

Prunty said that it is unlikely that 50 per cent of the allocated $350,000 to be shared between the renovation and reconstruction of Reggie’s and The Hive will be used for the new Loyola café.

“We don’t have to spend [all of the allocated money]—we’re not trying to,” said Prunty. “It’s more like a cushion so that it’s available if it’s absolutely necessary.”

Currently, the CSU is looking for community funding in order to cover assets and the salaries of workers, as well as to ensure that taking out loans would not be needed.

“There’s a lot of things that we want to figure out but at this point what’s most important is getting the basics down so we can expand from there,” said Prunty.

“If we can make this become a reality, I will be really happy.”

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