College cafe is closed for now
A shortage of funds and customers has caused the Kokanee Cafe to dry up.
The cafeteria at Lake Tahoe Community College, which opened four years ago, met its fate when the college could no longer afford a subsidy to cover a $100,000 annual loss to keep it open, said President Guy Lease.
“It’s been unsuccessful,” Lease said.
Faculty and staff represented 60 percent of the cafeteria’s customers, but with a 30-to-1 student-staff ratio, crowds could have been larger, Lease said.
When it was built, college officials hoped it would keep students on campus. For the time being, a food cart situated near the Kokanee Cafe will be expanded to offer fare such as pizza slices, bagels, pastries, fresh fruit, sandwiches and salad.
When it was at its peak, the cafe would offer rice bowls, Philadelphia cheesesteaks, beef stroganoff, custom salads and other dishes.
Two meetings occurred last week – also the first week of the school year – to help formulate strategies to reopen the cafe. The first was headed by the Student Council on Thursday while support staff personnel held a meeting Friday.
Keon Hall, president of the Student Council, thought the cafeteria should limit its offerings to easy-to-prepare food such as salads and sandwiches.
“I think it really should be open and the students think it should be open,” Hall said.
Student Carly Stauffacher agreed the grill options should be decreased.
“I would definitely like to see it open,” she said. “I feel like they spent so much money on the building (but) it’s hardly ever open. It’s empty down there.”
Lease said the college is soliciting advice from members of the culinary arts program and those involved in the restaurant business of South Lake Tahoe. He said it’s a “high priority” to reopen the cafe.
Culinary arts students will still have access to the cafeteria for classes. Community organizations could also use the area for meetings, Lease said.
Catering frequent lunches and dinners for community organizations could raise the bottom line, said Steve Fernald, head of the culinary arts program.
Fernald planned for a course where students could prepare special dishes on certain days in the cafeteria but the plan will have to be changed. One difficulty was not planning how the food service and culinary arts program would combine efforts when the cafeteria opened, Fernald said.
“I think the lack of a plan, it was very rough from the very start as far as the dynamics of how to integrate the two and who was doing what,” Fernald said.
Other difficulties are the number of students who take night classes, and might not need a full meal, along with the new library giving students a new place to study away from the cafeteria.
The cost, of course, is always a factor for college students.
“There’s probably a price point where they’re not going to cross,” Fernald said.
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