Loyola’s Hive Café Delayed Until Next Year

Students will have to wait until next year to see the Hive finally open. Photo Benjamin Allard

Despite promises during the Concordia Student Union elections in March 2013 that the long-awaited Hive Café would already be up and running by now, students will have to wait until the next academic year to see a student-run café open its doors on the Loyola campus.

CSU VP Loyola Crystal Harrison said the Hive would be open in some capacity in September 2013 during the election campaign period last March, before being voted into office. Then, in August of last year, the CSU announced the café’s opening would be delayed until this month.

But construction on the space hasn’t yet begun—and isn’t expected to begin for several more weeks.

Electrical, mechanical and architectural drawings will be finalized this month, after which the university will conduct a public tendering process, allowing companies to place bids for the construction contract. A contract with the winning bidder should be signed towards the end of February or early March, with construction then taking place throughout March.

Delays have plagued The Hive Café project for years. The Loyola Luncheon—a CSU-sponsored meal program offering students a free, vegetarian-friendly lunch five days a week—has used the space slated for the café since it became available again following renovations in September 2007.

The CSU came close to launching a full café in the space in 2010, only to see their plan fall apart upon the discovery that the café’s electrical consumption would exceed the building’s capacity.

Despite the project’s failings in past years, this year’s CSU executives nevertheless say they are confident the café will be ready for a launch next fall.

In an interview with The Link on Monday, Harrison said she was led to believe that the electrical upgrades needed to accommodate The Hive Café’s appliances had already been made. She later found out that wasn’t the case.

“In terms of the actual construction not moving forward, I don’t know why it was so held up,” she said of the electrical work that was supposed to have already taken place.

“They need to increase the voltage in order to be able to handle the equipment that we’re installing,” she explained, noting that the university is “paying for and taking care of most of it.”

The rest of the construction, set to take place in March, should be completed quickly, according to Harrison.

“It’s not that big of a project,” she said. “It’s a couple of counters and the proper installation of all the equipment. The actual building part won’t take very long.”

The CSU leases the space for The Hive Café from Concordia. Construction must therefore be arranged through the university’s Facilities Management services.

“Everyone that I’ve worked with from the university has been super helpful and is really pushing for this as much as they possibly can,” Harrison said, “but it’s my understanding that they also have a lot of other projects that they’re working on, so to throw another one on this architect’s lap and this project manager’s lap—they’re already dealing with so many. […] Sometimes things can take a while on their end.”

A history of the Hive. Graphic by Jayde Nordstrom

The Hive’s kitchen was already overhauled at a cost of $80,000 in October 2010, when an industrial-sized oven, stove and dishwasher were installed. With most of the construction therefore taking place outside the kitchen, Harrison said the Loyola Luncheon should only minimally be disrupted by the upcoming renovations.

“It should not directly interrupt [the luncheon] most of the time,” Harrison said. “There will be probably a week or so where they have to shut off electricity or shut off water, in which case that will definitely affect it, so right now I’m looking into alternatives for what to do during that time, because I don’t want to stop feeding students […] even if we can’t use that space.”

While the construction should end before the summer break, Harrison said the CSU won’t be hiring employees and opening the café this semester.

“For us, it doesn’t really make sense to hire somebody to be the manager [of the café] for a month and then not have them working over the summer,” she said, adding that the Hive remaining open likely wouldn’t be profitable during the first summer of business.

She said there’s a possibility that the CSU might hold a launch party this academic year, however.

“If we’re launching, it’s because this has been built,” she said, looking down at the blueprints on her desk in the CSU offices. “We’re not going to launch anything unless the physical infrastructure is there.

“It’s looking like next year we’ll be able to be fully operational, so [for the remainder of the current executive’s mandate] we’ll just have to celebrate the fact that we built it at least and set everything in stone so that it can start strong next year,” she continued.

After the construction is done, Harrison said the next major step is hiring a manager who understands how so-called “solidarity co-operatives” work, as that is the model that has been chosen for the café’s organizational structure.

CSU VP Sustainability Benjamin Prunty told The Link that the composition of the café’s Board of Directors hasn’t been finalized yet, although he says progress is being made. The café’s manager would likely sit on the Board, he said, while other members might include student staff members and users of the café.

“Having people who are still going to be committed to the project, even when our mandate is over, is going to be crucial to making [the co-operative] operate the way we want it to,” Harrison said, adding that she’d like to stay involved in the project even after her year as VP Loyola comes to an end, perhaps as a member of the organization’s Board.

When the Hive does open in the fall, it will take over the responsibility of providing free meals to students from the Loyola Luncheon, Harrison continued.

“This is the last year the Luncheon is operating as is,” she said. “From here on out, it’s gone essentially, but the CSU is going to continue to subsidize The Hive Café solidarity co-operative to still offer a free lunch every day.

“It will be looking quite a bit different [from the Luncheon], but it will actually be more cost-effective for the CSU.”

The café will serve pre-packaged food at the beginning because wages for preparation work would be costly, according to Harrison, but the café’s menu will evolve with students’ wishes.

“There’s room to grow and change according to what students want and need,” she said, adding that there will be sufficient counter space for additional appliances.

“What’s most important about this project, and what I would like to emphasize, is that something needs to go in this year to fill the food void that exists at Loyola,” Prunty said, adding that the co-operative model will allow the café to adapt to the specifications that the Concordia community will set for it.

“The initial phase is by no means the final product,” he said. “Once the kitchen is fully useable and once there is a chef for that location, you’d be able to have more input over where the food is coming from.”