An argument for the Cap Bar is fundamentally an argument for conversation.
In my opinion, this is the only thing that truly matters about the Cap Bar. One can lament changes to the cold brew recipe, or critique the addition of declining balance sales, but if the Cap Bar remains the simple space to linger and talk with friends, the coffee could be pitch and the Cap Bar would live.
The Cap Bar is threatened, and if this threat is carried out, the wound will be permanent.
The previous article regarding these changes came while facts were still obscure. Now, it would seem the new day has climbed over the healthy ledge, and here are the facts: The proposed Cap Bar renovation comes as a sweetener to a 15-year contract extension with Aramark; President Keefe signs, the school gets a new open-plan eatery on Aramark’s dime. The creation would scrap the Rathskellar, move the bookstore downstairs and renovate the upstairs into one, large Aramark multi-option eatery. The Cap Bar would be moved to the back wall and would open onto the cafeteria patio.
The proposal comes as a response to a survey of the student body. I remember that survey, and I can see how the questions asked would easily produce a perceived consensus for a multi-option dining center. When asked if someone wants more options, who would look at our cafeteria and not say yes, or desire other places to pick up food on campus? I did, but had I known that more changes meant the destruction of the Cap Bar myself and others would have answered very differently. That five minute survey ought not to be an influence on a contract lasting as long as three quarters of my life.
Dr. Plotts, presiding over these possible renovations, has made it clear this is not “a consensus driven experience” during a meeting organized by a handful of juniors seeking to clarify the hazy details surrounding the renovations. Prior to this meeting, it would seem neither faculty nor members of the National Alumni Board were aware of the possibility of the renovation.
However, a defense for the Cap Bar really originates not in economics, but in experience, in identity.
The Cap Bar’s grand arbor outdoors, the cramped, disorganized tables and chairs inside plant themselves in one’s mind because they are unique, unmistakable. These seeds are brought to fruition during the countless hours spent there.
There is a running joke among many who frequent the Cap Bar—one goes there when one wishes to pretend to work, but truly desires to spend the next four hours in conversation. That community, above all else, sustains the Cap Bar.
It is a place for idleness, but more than that, it is a place for leisure. Indoors, the Cap Bar is often loud and crowded, and a rapid tumble of class-goers and comers stream through. One always catches sight of a friend, stops to chat for a minute or five, then bustles along to the next task. Or, the conversation persists, lingers, and soon one finds oneself in one of the disarrayed chairs, surrounded by 10 other such impromptu groups, reveling in the chatter and lack of legroom.
Eventually, one grows tired of the chatter and invites the conversation outside, where the evening can be spent at one of the bent, tired iron tables. Coffee, cigarettes and hours pass from hand to hand; the exchange of gifts, ideas and anecdotes is the currency of the Cap Bar—and its economy is thriving.
Leisure is the practice of the Cap Bar and its profession. Leisure requires rest, and rest requires intimacy.
One never feels at ease in open spaces, especially not in a place one is expected to buy things. There is a fundamental difference between a food court and a coffee shop. Undoubtedly, we all would choose to meet a friend in the latter. Such spaces are incredibly difficult to create deliberately, so often they are born organically and inexplicably.
We are blessed to have one in the very heart of our campus. To tamper with it threatens to pluck at nerves running the length and breadth of the living organism that is UD past, present and future.
Moving the Cap Bar to the back wall would be the axe-fall that kills the Cap Bar. No one would stop, no one would linger and no one would talk. There is already a nice patio on that side—no one sits outside the Rat.
The Cap Bar is the second center of campus after the Mall; its bread is foot-traffic and its wine is conversation. The Cap Bar is the heart of UD. It is poetic—original, untranslatable, honest.