Robin Huiras

The CafÇ of the Americas, a favorite hang-out and restaurant for University students, staff and faculty members, will shut its doors permanently on April 2.
Negotiations between the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Resource Center of the Americas concluded Thursday with the decision to close the popular cafÇ. This decision ends nine months of uncertainty on the fate of the cafÇ, starting with the archdiocese’s decision in June to close the Newman Center, where the cafÇ is located.
“As much as I want to conclude on a good note, I don’t want to minimize that it has been an awful nine months,” said Pam Costain, executive director of the center. “In the end, we want to feel good about what we did do for as long as we did it, to walk away with our heads held high. We made a contribution.”
The archdiocese has no immediate plans to sell the building, which is located across from the University at 1701 University Ave. S.E., said Dennis Cheesborough, the transition manager of the Newman Center. Rather, the archdiocese is pursuing other leasing options.
Susan Carlson Weinberg, the University’s real estate coordinator, said the University and the archdiocese have been negotiating future use of the building, although nothing has been finalized.
“We’ve been assured by the archdiocese that we’re not competing with any other prospective tenants,” Weinberg said. “Although, I understand there are other interested parties.”
Weinberg added that lease negotiations would have to be completed this spring if the University is to use the building as they intend — as additional classroom space and to relocate the Institute of Technology dean’s office.
Bittersweet departure
The June closing of the Newman Center is not the only reason for the closing of the cafÇ, which had a lease with the archdiocese through Jan. 1, 2000, Costain said.
The resource center, which operates the cafÇ, was running short on space and looking toward other building options. However, because of the cafÇ’s close proximity to the University, the resource center would have preferred to stay near campus.
But the closing of the Newman Center meant the resource center couldn’t continue to use space in that building to hold classes and other activities. That, coupled with increased demand for their services, put pressure on the resource center to move.
“We just lost our reason for staying here,” Costain said. “The cafÇ is closing because the Newman Center closed and whatever future use there would be in the building did not include us. We would not be leaving if it were not for the fact the space is no longer available — even if (the resource center) had left here.”
The cafÇ affected many people. Although open for only three hours a day, about 200 people came in each day to eat, meet friends and study, cafÇ chef Jeannie Inglehart said.
Looking on the bright side
The intention behind the creation of the 3-year-old the cafÇ was as a money-maker for the resource center. And it did just that, proving financially successful after only its second year in operation.
Financially, the closing of the cafÇ is a huge loss, Costain said. Although the cafÇ generated only a fraction of the resource center’s operating budget, reestablishing it in another location will bring serious financial losses.
However, despite the Newman Center’s closing, the cafÇ has not lost business. Many patrons of the popular cafÇ feel no other place on or near campus can compare, not only in food quality and pricing, but atmosphere and ambiance, Inglehart said.
“This has been a really hard couple of weeks for me,” Inglehart said. “To lose something I have worked so hard at — I love being the chef here and I couldn’t ask for nicer people.”
However, when the resource center moves to its new location near 27th Avenue and Lake Street, it will include a coffee shop, serving some of the specialties Inglehart created for the cafÇ.
Although the closing of the cafÇ means financial loss for the resource center and a cultural loss to the University community, the center sees its future as positive. The relocation means more space for the center and the ability to provide South and Central American information to a community with a high Latino population.
“We had hoped to stay here, but this thing has gone through so many stages that at a certain point you’re just worn down by it,” Costain said. “Because this thing has been so indefinite and involved and unclear, staying became less and less attractive.”