No Time for Tea Parties — This Hub Needs Help

Jessica Huang/Guardian
Jessica Huang/Guardian

A few short months ago, the A.S. Council devoted nearly 15 hours of discussion to a nasty little problem called the Grove Cafe.

The 25-year-old student-run enterprise had accrued over $140,000 in debt, and wasn’t showing much sign of making a turnaround. Several councilmembers led a vocal charge to shut down the beleaguered cafe once and for all — a move designed to cut the council’s losses and hand the Grove’s glen-like Student Center location over to the university.

But through a tearful mix of optimism and nostalgia and a heartfelt pledge from incoming president Utsav Gupta to revive the ailing enterprise, the vote to close the Grove was overturned and the coffeehouse lived to see another day.

Kind of.

The cafe is currently operating at partial capacity, having eliminated nearly its entire food menu in preparation for what Gupta and friends promise to be a heckuva grand reopening — one complete with a revamped menu, a fresh coat of paint and a big old publicity campaign courtesy of those weirdo A.S. artists who seem to like teddy bears so much.

And while these rather ambitious plans have already been derailed pretty heavily — a proposed fifth week reopening quickly dissolved into “we’ll get back to you on that one” — it’s nice to see that something is actually happening down at the Grove. For starters, Gupta and his motley troupe of would-be restaurateurs recently secured full funding from the university to replace the cafe’s rickety, Civil War-era patio.

What’s more, they’re actually taking time to meet with the cafe’s student managers, a far cry from the stubborn apathy demonstrated by last year’s councilmembers, many of whom had never ventured past the sterile confines of their Price Center East stronghold, much less frolicked their way through the flowery Ewok village that conceals the Grove.

Yes, things are actually starting to look up for the little cafe that couldn’t. There’s a solid team of devotees working toward what appears to be a solid collection of new, money-generating ideas. But let’s not get too wrapped up in buckets of praise just yet. Though the year is still young, the clock is already ticking. Before long, Spring Quarter is going to roll around and a new council will arrive, with new priorities — and there’s no guarantee that the Grove will be among them.

So, Gupta and team Grove-love better act fast if they want to get this thing off the ground, and they better do it right, or else that longtime financial sinkhole of a cafe is just going to slide right back into the red.

Eventually we hope to see a successful Grove, one that actually makes money for the students who own it rather than collecting debt, dust and the wrath of fed-up councilmembers. In the meantime, we’re left with a powerful hankering for Cali Clubs and the lingering fear that Gupta’s band of merry enterprisers are going to lose momentum, give up or just outright fail. It’s time to start throwing back those espresso shots, lads.