Customer signatures reach

Sean Madigan

More than 400 patrons of a treasured Dinkytown lunch spot signed a petition this week to prevent its possible closing if the University decides to purchase the Newman Center building.
The future of the Cafe of the Americas, housed in the building’s basement, became uncertain when the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul closed the Newman Center in June.
The University’s Board of Regents decided Thursday to review the possibility of purchasing the property — a move that continues to leave the cafe’s fate up in the air.
The Archdiocese decided to sell the building in October. They are offering the property, which is located on University Avenue in the thick of fraternity row, to the University for $1.85 million.
The University holds an exclusive contract with food vendor Aramark Corp. The contract with Aramark might prohibit the cafe from operating in a University building.
But despite their uncertain future, cafe staff and their patrons haven’t given up yet.
“There’s a glimmer of hope that we’ll get to stay,” Jeannie Inglehart said. Inglehart, the cafe’s head chef, said in addition to the 400 signatures collected this week, they also received more than 100 letters urging the University to allow the cafe to stay open. Some letters even suggested that the University move instead.
College of Liberal Arts senior Steve Knuteson said it would be sad to see the cafe go.
“There’s nothing else like it in Dinkytown. It’s pretty cool to eat at a place that supports a good cause instead of some crappy multi-international corporation,” Knuteson said.
Profits from the cafe are used to fund the nonprofit Resource Center for the Americas, which provides the University community with information about Central and South America. The resource center made an investment in the Newman Center two years ago, and depends on its investment for crucial funding. Without the cafe’s funding the resource center might also be forced to shut its doors and leave.
“Most of our faculty eats here. They would sorely miss it,” said Fran Garon, an adviser at the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Faculty members use the cafe to discuss curriculum issues and to keep in contact with one another, Garon said.
The board hasn’t decided what the building will be used for if the University purchases it.
The University’s Capital Program Relocation Plan will displace many student and faculty classrooms and programs to the West Bank during the lengthy renovations of East Bank buildings, said Sue Weinberg, University director of real estate.
In an effort to keep East Bank classes on the East Bank, Weinberg said the center could be renovated for additional classroom and office space. The University is looking into possibly housing the Institute of Technology dean’s office in the center, Weinberg said.
Adding classrooms and office space may push the cafe off the campus and out of business.
The University also has to consider renovation costs for the facility to accommodate the cafe.
“We have to ask, ‘What are the renovations we would be forced to pay for (the cafe) to be kept?'” Weinberg said.