Two popular campus study spaces are the latest to be impacted by the University’s stricter campus health policies enacted on Saturday.
Murray-Dodge Café — a student-run cafe that serves free coffee, tea, and cookies in the basement of Dodge Hall, home to the Office of Religious Life — will be “closed until further notice,” per a message emailed to students on Monday.
The Coffee Club, a coffee shop staffed by students in the basement of Campus Club on Prospect Avenue, will extend its pre-planned Thanksgiving break closure. It plans to reopen on Thursday, Dec. 2, according to a listserv email, and begin serving new holiday-themed drinks.
Both spots reopened this fall after 18 months of inactivity imposed by the pandemic.
In its email, the Coffee Club cited the “recent spike in COVID cases” as a reason for its postponed reopening, along with a desire to “ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers.”
After a semester of low case counts, COVID-19 cases have risen significantly in the past week, reaching a semester high. Over 30 undergraduate students tested positive between Monday, Nov. 22 and Friday, Nov. 26, and a further 9 undergraduates tested positive over the weekend.
“As soon as I heard about the spike in cases, I was already thinking, ‘I don't feel comfortable [reopening] until we know for sure that all of our staff members … have had the chance to have at least two tests,’” Coffee Club director Sara Miller ’22 said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “I didn’t want to take any chances.”
Miller added that unless there is an “unreasonable” spike in cases in the coming days, she hopes to reopen on Thursday as expected.
“As long as I know that my baristas are negative and are staying safe,” she said. “We're doing everything that we can to stay on top of this and make sure we're not putting anyone at risk.”
At the Murray-Dodge Café, student bakers told the ‘Prince’ they were saddened by the shutdown. Because the café specifically recruits students who qualify for federal work study, an indefinite closure was potentially problematic.
Kamron Soldozy ’22, who is a supervisor at Murray-Dodge, said that the shutdown was communicated by “higher-ups in the cafe.” He confirmed that opportunities will be available for student employees even when typical baking shifts aren’t possible.
“The idea is that there's enough work such that they can get paid exactly as much as if they were working in the cafe right now,” he said.
Potential tasks include creating social media and newsletter content, as well as a concept called “Cookie Convoy,” in which Soldozy envisions fresh-baked cookies being delivered to students who win a raffle or complete a limited sign-up form.
“I was surprised with how they were able to come up with other opportunities for us so quickly,” David Villarreal ’23, an employee, wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
Seza Tunc ’24, also a student employee at Murray-Dodge, described her own worries about the closure. Prior to the new campus restrictions, she’d sought out a second job at the Mendel Music Library, and now says she feels “lucky” to have that position as a source of stability.
“It was funny because just the day before, we had our [Murray-Dodge] scheduling meeting, and I picked up two shifts, and the next morning we learned that we weren’t able to open the café,” she said. “It was a little sad.”
The Murray-Dodge listserv email did not say when the café will reopen but stated that updates will be released via email and on Instagram.
“My hopes are high that we’re going to open up pretty soon,” Soldozy said.
Miller told the ‘Prince’ how important she thinks campus spaces are in bringing people together, especially after more than a year without access to them.
“Because there has been such a lack of community,” she said, “it makes the experience of walking into a place like the Coffee Club so much more special.”
But for now, students passing by Murray-Dodge and the Coffee Club won’t enjoy their trademark sounds and scents: student voices, fresh-brewed coffee, and fresh-baked cookies. And until Thursday — or later — students will need to get their caffeine and sugar fixes elsewhere.
Evelyn Doskoch is a Head News Editor who has reported on University affairs, COVID-19 policy, student life, sexual harassment allegations, town affairs, and eating clubs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EvelynDoskoch.