Café in UGLi now 24 hours

By Ian Dillingham, Senior News Reporter
Published February 12, 2013

Late-night munchies can now be satisfied for those who burn the midnight oil at Shapiro Undergraduate Library.

As promised in Central Student Government President Manish Parikh’s 2012 campaign, a 24-hour café has been opened on Central Campus. Bert’s Café, located on the first floor of the UgLi, is now open 24 hours on Sunday through Wednesday as part of a pilot program during the winter semester.

The new hours were implemented mid-January, but CSG didn’t officially announce the change until Tuesday, when Parikh sent an e-mail to the student body.

“(Students) needed a place where they could grab a late night coffee or late night snack … especially during finals,” Parikh said “We believe that when students are well-hydrated and well-nourished — especially late at night — it provides for the better well-being and better health.”

University Unions facilitated the change by temporarily increasing funding to cover the added labor costs.

“Our absolute goal is to make sure this is a self-sustaining operation, but the University Unions have been very kind to front the initial (funding),” Parikh said.

After the announcement Tuesday, some students have asked whether or not a similar 24-hour café would be opened at the Duderstadt Center to serve students living on North Campus. However, Parikh said there are no plans to implement a café at the Dude at this time.

“It’s definitely something that we’ll be looking to in the future, especially if this program is successful,” Parikh said.

Safety was another concern regarding the 24-hour schedule at Bert’s. Because of the later hours of operation at least two employees will be present during all late-night shifts.

“This was our number-one priority,” Parikh said. “We had to check out the safety … before we could move ahead with anything. There have been no incidents whatsoever so far and we don’t expect any incidents in the future.”

In addition to these changes, Tuesday’s e-mail notified students that office hours led by CSG leaders will now be “Coffee Chats” at Bert’s, an effort to make the student government more transparent.

“Our focus this year is restoring Central Student Government back to the students and, in order to do that, we must be 100-percent approachable by any member of our student body,” Parikh said.

CSG Vice President Omar Hashwi said the traditional office hours’ location in the group’s chambers resulted in inconsistent involvement.

“We think if we can have more of a presence on campus — for people to be able to walk by, see our name and ask us questions — it would be better for the student body,” Hashwi said.

Though the new format involves meeting in a public place, Hashwi said leaders don’t expect that their meetings will inconvenience patrons.

The process of transitioning Bert’s to a 24-hour schedule required extensive background work by staff at University Unions. Food Service Director Keith Soster said the UGLi had to first successfully transition into a 24-hour library before Bert’s could become an around-the-clock café.

“We’re going to pilot it for winter semester to see if it’s going to be sustainable … and then we’re going to take it from there,” Soster said.

Logistically, Soster said University Unions found it challenging to staff the café during the early morning hours, particularly between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.

“It’s difficult finding students who would want to work those hours, so that’s one of the cost factors,” Soster said.

Soster cited the uncertainty of staff availability as the reason the 24-hour café underwent a “quiet” opening in mid-January. Since then, he added, University Unions has begun to advertise the new hours, a move he said has increased sales.

If CSG and University Unions deem the project sustainable, Bert’s Café will likely adopt the 24-hour schedule on a permanent basis.