About four to five years ago, Student Government president Joey Kelly walked across Hagar with Plotts, asking if University of Dallas students could have retail food on campus. And so began the discussion of renovating the Cap Bar to accommodate another food service.
In a recent interview with The University News, Executive Vice President, Dr. John Plotts indicated that the previous Cap Bar renovation plans are on the table again, as long as there is student support.
After Aramark took over the Cap Bar in 2017, they conducted student focus groups to determine what retail foods students would prefer. At the time, Aramark was unsure if they would be adding a food station to the Ratskeller or renovating the Cap Bar to make more room for another dining opinion.
The University News reached out to both Layshonda Wyatt, Aramark’s Food Service Manager, and Vanessa Martinez, Aramark’s Retail Supervisor, who declined to comment due to corporate policy.
While the renovation conversation did continue through 2018, it was eventually shut down. Not only was Plotts too busy serving as Interim President, but the students were not ready to accept change for their beloved Cap Bar, calling out against subsidiary and its possible carelessness for tradition.
Previous rejection came from a fear that the remodel would not maintain an “authentically Italian” atmosphere. However, Plotts does not consider this as an issue.
“I’m all for keeping it the tradition, and the authenticity. In fact, I want to make it more Italian because we don’t want it to be antithetical to the architecture and decor.”
While reminiscing about the Cap Bar, Alum Katherine Stirton (‘96) emphasized how the UD student connects their semester in Italy to the Cap Bar in Irving. “It was a place where you ran into friends, where you get a cup of coffee or a cappuccino. It made people think of Rome.”
Per Plotts, he is working with Aramark to reevaluate how to properly gauge student support with new approaches to student surveys, focus groups, and displays.
Plotts is relying on Student Government to provide him with a balanced report of student opinion, an aspect that he didn’t have in the previous discussions of the remodel. “I want to make sure we have engagement from students primarily,” Plotts said.
“I don’t have an agenda,” Plotts stated, emphasizing that this remodel will be a student decision, not an administrative one.
Student barista Versana Roche enjoys the social hub of the Cap Bar. “It’s a great opportunity to talk to your best friends or people you wouldn’t usually talk to.” While admitting that a renovation might make the Cap Bar harder to study in, Roche supports it. “I think that [a remodel] would be incredible. I think it would be a really great environment and [would] open up the Cap Bar.”
“I’m thinking just clean this up a bit, expand the space, make it a little more student-friendly for study and social interaction. I think it has potential,” Plotts said. To realize this potential, the bookstore will be located downstairs, where the Rathskeller is located, making room for an expanded Cap Bar and a new food station, potentially a retail one like Whataburger.
This potential renovation also means that there will be some huge changes to the bookstore. Anita Johnson, Follett’s bookstore manager, is afraid that their new location will be an impediment to sales. “We’ll be out of sight, out of mind,” she said.
Plotts has a plan to help out the bookstore in its new location. “We need to do a little bit of marketing. [We can make up for] loss in revenue by increasing online sales and [by having] a small spirit shop upstairs to display material.”
Johnson also anticipates needing to do more business online and might have to consider switching to a virtual bookstore model. “If our revenue is reduced due to lack of traffic, it’s something we might have to look at. I’m not sure that that would best serve the needs of the campus.”
To complete this remodel, UD will have to sign a new contract with Follett, who made an offer of $100,000 for renovations in exchange for a 10-year contract. UD also has to review the offer made by Aramark who plans to spend 4 to 5 million dollars on the remodel in exchange for a long term contract according to Plotts and Johnson.
All these potential renovation plans rely on students’ approval. “Everything [in this interview] is subject to change,” Plotts emphasized.