The Wit’s End of the Stick

Popular hang outs doors to remain closed indefinitely.

Popular hang out’s doors to remain closed indefinitely.

Denez McAdoo

Many students and faculty are going to have to find a new place to sip their morning cup of coffee and buy an afternoon Vitamin Water. After several semesters of continued financial struggles, the student-run Wit’s End Cafe is closing its doors at the end of this semester and will not be opening up again in the spring.

Citing declining revenues due to the diversion of students to the Campus Center after it was opened three years ago, Student Affairs has finally decided to close the cafe indefinitely while they reexamine other possible business models that they could implement in the near future.

“We are still committed to having it exist in some format,” said Kelly Meehan, the special assistant to the vice chancellor of student affairs and the advisor for the Wit’s End staff, “but we can’t continue to fund the current model.”

This model that Meehan speaks of has undergone many changes since the Campus Center’s construction. Several attempts were made to reverse the declining revenue, including consolidating the Cafe’s two locations, reworking the management structure, scheduling more events, expanding the menu and increasing advertising, but ultimately revenue continued to decline.

Meehan explained that had Wit’s End seen progress in reducing annual loss, Student Affairs would have been able to allow for more opportunity for the cafe to continue. “Instead we maintained that loss,” she said. The continued loss, in spite the Student Affairs’ attempts to rejuvenate the struggling cafe, has forced its closure. Student Affairs is looking for a possible business model that would allow it to reopening, which Meehan assures Student Affairs is committed to doing.

Some of the possible ideas for the future of the Wit’s End tentatively include it becoming a late-night dining location, a performance area for music and other events, a commuter student lounge or even possibly reopening it as a dining facility if they are able to embed it into existing management or entrepreneurial studies programs.

“The people who come here are loyal customers,” said student Erin Foley, who has been working behind the counter for more than two years. “It’s a community atmosphere.” In fact, in a recent Dining Service Advisory Committee Report, the Wit’s End rated highest in customer satisfaction among all the dining locations on campus.

The problem has not been keeping the students and faculty who already go there happy, it is one of the few places where students congregate and also features patio access. The problem has been attracting new students to its rather reclusive location. Before the development of the Campus Center, the cafe benefited from the foot-traffic of Wheatley cafe and also the student clubs and centers which were located on the next floor above. These two key student destinations have long since been integrated into the new building and the Wit’s End has proven unable to attract enough new students by itself.

“I’ve said to my friends, ‘Let’s go to the Wit’s End,’ but no one’s ever heard of it,” said Alex Misic, a student who’s been going to the cafe for more than a year.

Despite this, the cafe has remained something of a campus institution to its dedicated regulars for more than 20 years. Prior to its current incarnation it had been a campus pub. Although popular as an on-campus bar, Governor Dukakis’s dramatic raising of the cost of alcohol liability insurance in 1984 lead to the location’s re-imagining as first a juice bar followed by the cafe that it has become since.

“What we need to do is to think about the most important aspects that the Wit’s End provided and see if we can build a model to keep those for students,” Meehan said. She also encouraged students and faculty who are interested in the Wit’s End’s future to contact her about ideas for the location, which was a topic that the Student Senate discussed at their last meeting. At that meeting many senators agreed that its community atmosphere and its sunny courtyard access should be retained in whatever incarnation the location has in the future.