Che in Chains

Che in Chains

Opinion_JennyLee

Embattled Che Cafe Collective needs to rethink its financial strategies to preserve the establishment’s iconic history

After 33 years on campus, the Che Cafe Collective is in rather dire straits. After already having lost its nonprofit status and having narrowly escaped issues over insurance payments in 2012, the Che has been slapped with a default notice from the University Centers Advisory Board requiring a solid financial strategy within 30 days or risk shutdown.

The tragedy of the situation is that even with its money troubles, the Che Cafe has been a UCSD landmark and local icon, known for its indie concerts and other entertainment events. Between hosting breakout acts, such as Green Day and Bon Iver, and its counterculture-cool ambiance, the Che has endeared itself to a wide audience of UCSD students and music fans. We don’t want to see its doors shut just because they couldn’t find a way to pay their bills. With just responsible management and a clear plan for financial self-sufficiency, it could remain a vibrant community fixture.

What is clear is that some change is needed if we expect to see the Che stay. Year after year, the establishment has gone through various financial troubles, including skyrocketing debt and eventually the loss of its nonprofit status. The latter ultimately triggered the UCAB’s decision to hold the Cafe to a default since only a nonprofit organization is permitted to occupy the space. These woes can only realistically be attributed to deficient administration; the Cafe’s management needs to realize that if they want to keep control, they will have to find a way to balance their budget, whether it be through better marketing or higher cover charges. The Che has already skipped out on its rent payments for some time and even without them can’t keep itself afloat, resulting in a loss for the University Centers.

To be fair, the Che isn’t the only co-op with financial troubles, but the aimless leadership isn’t helping their situation. It has certainly been a tough year for other co-ops too; the tobacco ban dissolved a significant portion of the General Store’s revenue, and A.S. Council grilled all of them last year over their failure to pay rent and their general financial insolvency. But these troubles only increase the need for leaders that can realize the pressing need to cut expenditure. We do commend the Che’s staff for making a sacrifice and operating on a volunteer-only basis — this signifies at least a concerted effort on the part of the management to break even, but they will also need to start making better business decisions if they want to right the ship and stay open.

If the student management fails to keep the Che going, there remains the possibility of the Che becoming a regular for-profit business. Although this would likely make Cafe namesake Che Guevara roll over in his grave, it might be the only way for revenue stability.

But should the current leadership depart, however, it would mean one less independent, student-run operation on campus. Price Center is already filled to the brim with big chain companies like Subway and Burger King. And with Starbucks already likely to displace the Espresso Roma Cafe, the last thing we need is another corporate conglomerate throwing its 1-percenter shadow over what could be an opportunity for students to gain meaningful experience operating a business and making decisions about how it is run. For all its money mishaps, the Che is a wonderful — and popular — place for music and food, not to mention an occasional hotbed of political activism. Given that the only comparable place nearby is the rather boring Loft, the Che is worth preserving, even at a cost. Given that it has operated for decades under the banner of fierce independence and general anti-establishment fervor, selling out to corporate interests would be a sad way to go. We hope this is not the only possible course of action, but it may be if the finances don’t add up.

Despite Cafe members’ complaints that the university administration has a vendetta against them, those running the Che will only have themselves to blame if they do eventually go under. They need to get their act together, get help or hand the reins over to someone with more fiscal acumen. Fewer than 30 days remain for them to decide which it will be.

 

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