Hive Café Progress Slowed by Lack of Funds

The Loyola Luncheon, a CSU-sponsored meal program offering students a free, vegetarian-friendly lunch five days a week, seen here serving students in March 2013 out of the space slated for the Hive Café. Photo Benjamin Allard

Construction on The Hive Café has not yet begun—but that’s not the only thing holding back progress on the project’s development.

The Concordia Student Union’s Referendum Oversight Committee is looking to fund the salary of a project manager who would oversee the creation of the co-operative board that would govern both the Hive and the student-run café that will replace the Hall Building Java U, according to the committee’s report on its meeting last month.

Where to secure those funds remains undetermined, however.

“An assessment of the CSU’s financial health as well as a breakdown of the bylaw interpretations will be presented at the next council meeting,” said CSU VP Finance Scott Carr.

Gabriel Velasco, an Arts and Science councillor and member of the Concordia Food Coalition, suggested at the ROC meeting that money from the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency Fund be used to pay a project manager.

But according to the ROC report, CSU Special Bylaw I states that the fund can only be used for the improvement of student space. Velasco says there’s still a chance it can be used to fund a project manager, however.

“[The bylaw] is ambiguous,” Velasco told The Link. “It’s money that has been sitting there for a while. […] There are other options but that seems to be the most viable one.”

“The bylaw empowers council to use the funds very broadly for ‘improvements to student space,’” added VP Sustainability Ben Prunty. “So the important question to ask then is: is a student café a student space? Of course it is. Is putting a co-operative into the mezzanine space considered an improvement to student space? Since students voted 9-1 in favour of putting a co-operative in there, I’d say it is pretty clear that they consider it an improvement.”

According to Carr, however, the funds will have to come from elsewhere.

“The money from the SSAELC fund is not available for projects currently due to circumstances beyond the CSU’s control,” said Carr, who refused to specify what those circumstances are.

Other options discussed at the ROC meeting included accepting requests for proposals from established co-operatives to bid on the space and having the Arts and Science Federation of Associations fund the project, both of which came with their drawbacks.

“ASFA, to my knowledge, does not have the funds necessary to fund this entire project,” said Carr.

Meanwhile, “a co-operative that is run by students and already has existing capital would further limit the options presented,” states the ROC report on the option of accepting an RFP.

A Co-operative Board

Prunty, a founding director of the CFC primarily in charge of governance for the Hive, introduced the idea of a shared governance structure between the two cafés to the committee, arguing that such a model would help to reduce costs. The board would be composed of members of the CSU and the CFC, as well as other Concordia students.

“Each [food outlet] would have its own proper management, but the opportunities lay in the fact that the Hive has its own kitchen, and so it could supply prepared food […] to other student-run locations around campus,” Prunty told The Link.

“This would help drive down costs, not only financially, but also in people-power, since each location would not need its own board of directors and [annual general meetings], and things like that really do require a lot of organization and commitment on the part of students.”

One potential issue with such a structure brought up at the ROC meeting was the burden that would be placed on one café if the other was not financially sustainable, but despite this Prunty says a shared governance model “would be the ideal.”

“A lot of the work done on the Hive already could be shared with the mezzanine co-operative,” he said, adding however that nothing is set in stone as council “has not deliberated on this particular option at length yet.”

“Council will need to commit to one direction or the other so we can put resources behind [the project] and really start moving forward,” he said.