The Cautionary Tale of Burritoville

  • Graphic Morag Rahn-Campbell

What happened to Burritoville?

Bursting water pipes, broken kitchen equipment, bad blood with former owners, and debt to the Bishop St. building’s landlord are some of the problems that emerged since the solidarity cooperative closed its operations in the spring.

Still, the question remains of what went wrong, and the answer to it—if one is found—may be the key to whether the next investment the Concordia Student Union makes into a student-run business venture is successful or not.

Right now, the $100,000 approved by the union’s council to help fund the restaurant’s purchase in March 2015 is looking like a waste of money. Plus, the CSU just granted the ownership group approximately $6,000 to cover some anticipated legal costs, almost like an apology gift for choosing not to bail them out when the restaurant was in trouble.

To invest is to take a risk. Businesses, especially alternative ventures like solidarity cooperatives, are risks. Despite being a non-profit, Burritoville still couldn’t break even in a competitive downtown climate.

The CSU shouldn’t stop investing into student-run businesses though. The Hive Cafes located on both Concordia campuses appear to be running well in their first two years of existence, with over 5,000 members, a number that should continue to grow.

Reggie’s, the campus bar JMSB students have been chanting songs about for years, has revived into an independently-run solidarity co-op as well.

It’s not just bars and eateries—the CSU is in the midst of creating a daycare for student-parents as well as a new affordable housing complex in an attractive location to mainly serve Concordia students. These are some student initiatives The Link has and will continue to support.

It’s because of these projects that The Link asks that an independent and full debriefing on how and why Burritoville failed, so that we can learn from our mistakes and maintain accountability of how our student union manages our money. With so many multi-million dollar projects, every $100,000 counts.

There are allegations that former owners lied about the value of the restaurant’s assets and that the building isn’t in great shape. Who did their homework at the CSU? How much independent investigation did the executive team from that year do themselves?

From talking to the last three generations of general coordinators and presidents, the answers aren’t fully clear. The process is known and explained in CSU bylaws, but the amount of due diligence performed isn’t.

Just last year, the CSU council again approved to give a similar amount of money to Frigo Vert, a Concordia fee-levied grocery store located on Mackay St. They just moved into a bigger, more accessible space just down the street, but rent has reportedly doubled. Again, Frigo is a longtime staple of the Concordia community that some Link editors have membership cards for, but there is concern about how it’ll do this year, especially since another grocery store opened up metres away from it.

Let’s turn the story of Burritoville from a cover-page failure into a cautionary tale, with lessons for future generations of student politicians to follow for the next great ideas.

Editor’s note: The wrong version of this article was uploaded to the website. It has been changed to mirror what appears in the print version.

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