UC Santa Cruz Terminates Historic Stevenson Coffee House

“This is one of the cultural and intellectual hubs of the campus, and it’s impossible to quantify what the university would be losing by closing this space.” – Scott Ferreter of Sacramento

[ Lya Aghaseyedjavadi works the counter at Stevenson Coffee House. January 12, 2016. Photo by Raine Villa. ]

At UC Santa Cruz, a shift to UC Dining across campus is being perceived as part of a plan to privatize the UC. That’s according to a comment by Grace Shefcik on a petition called Save Stevenson Coffee House.

John Hadley, Manager of Stevenson Coffee House for over 30 years, typed a letter to patrons and taped it on the cafe informing them of the news.

“It is with great sadness, I must inform you that in June at the end of Spring Quarter, Stevenson Coffee House will be closing for good and my time as Manager will be ending too.” -John Hadley

The coffee house is a cultural institution whose history and significance extends beyond the university. Hadley explains, “Stevenson Coffee House is the oldest cafe on campus, over 40 plus years of service. When it opened, it was one of few places in Santa Cruz County to have an espresso machine.”

On February 29, 2016, a photo of Hadley’s letter began circulating on social media, sparking widespread concern along with the sharing of fond memories by current UCSC students and alumni, particularly graduates of Stevenson College.

By March 4, an online petition was created which has quickly gathered over 2,100 supporters in a few days. The petition highlights the cafe as providing a community space, academic setting, and an affordable eatery which offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, while also supporting local businesses. Other noted perks of the cafe include space for professors and TA’s (Teaching Assistants) to hold office hours and other academic meetings, as well as student-led events such as open mic and trivia nights.

Bradley Nowell, best known as the founder, lead singer, and guitarist of the band Sublime, attended UCSC as part of Stevenson College during his freshman and sophomore years from 1986-1988, just before the band was officially formed. A housemate of Nowell’s in Santa Cruz recalls that he played only, “One real show from the Santa Cruz era. It was a solo acoustic show in one of the on-campus coffee shops. I don’t think he advertised it at all. He just showed up, played a few ‘X’ covers and other songs that I can’t remember and that was it. Not too many people were there.” It was Stevenson Coffee House in which Nowell spontaneously performed.

Photo of Bradley Nowell shared by Reid Clow who writes, "One of the main reasons I went to UC Santa Cruz was because Bradley Nowell from Sublime attended the school for his freshman and sophomore years of college. Here is a picture of him strumming what was probably an "X" cover at the Stevenson Café in the 88-90 period."
Photo of Bradley Nowell shared by Reid Clow who writes, “One of the main reasons I went to UC Santa Cruz was because Bradley Nowell from Sublime attended the school for his freshman and sophomore years of college. Here is a picture of him strumming what was probably an “X” cover at the Stevenson Café in the 88-90 period.”

Supporters and advocates for the historic cafe assert, “Stevenson Coffee House holds a special place in the hearts of many, and it would be a great loss to see it close.”

Comments posted by supporters of the petition provide a taste of the cafe’s history and importance.

Beverly Iniguez of Santa Cruz observes, “Every time UC Dining takes over an establishment, they increase prices and make food unaffordable for students ($7-$10 dollar meals). Additionally, this along with Cowell Coffeeshop are a huge part of UCSC history and it would be a shame to get rid of an establishment that has existed for over 40 years.”

Angelica Amesquita of Santa Cruz says, “The Stevenson Coffee House should be preserved, as it is not only an important space for students and utilized by a number of professors, but also a historic landmark of the UCSC campus containing a rich history.”

Kelly Egan of Hilo, Hawaii makes a plea to, “Please reconsider. It is a true hallmark of UCSC that can’t be replaced.”

Jennifer Lynn of Santa Cruz notes, “Stevenson and Cowell coffee shops are the best places on campus for healthy vegetarian food and locally and house-made snacks.”

In a rebuttal to the petition, Anise Goldfarb contends, “The petition makes no mention of how they are repurposing the coffee shop in an attempt to cater to the needs of members of the student body, Jewish and Muslim students on campus who currently do not have kosher and halal options available to them and have been fighting for this to happen for many years now. Ignoring that fact is very sad, especially because that space will still be there, and it will still be open to everyone and it can still be a cool place to have open mic or TA meetings or whatever you want it to be.”

Hadley’s letter to patrons of the cafe declares, “At some distant future time, a different cafe/restaurant run by UC Dining will be opening – the concept is to be Kosher/Halal.”

Supporters of the cafe state that providing kosher and halal food options at UC Santa Cruz can be accomplished without the University forcing the closure of Stevenson Coffee House and a takeover of the structure by UC Dining.

Scott Ferreter of Sacramento, California affirms, “This is one of the cultural and intellectual hubs of the campus, and it’s impossible to quantify what the university would be losing by closing this space.”

To see the full petition, add your support, and read more comments about Stevenson Coffee House, visit: Save Stevenson Coffee House.

Stevenson Coffee House. Photo courtesy UCSC.
Stevenson Coffee House. Photo courtesy UCSC.

Letter from John Hadley, Stevenson Coffee House

The following is the full letter by John Hadley, Manager of Stevenson Coffee House for over 30 years:

Dear Stevenson Coffee House Patrons,

It is with great sadness, I must inform you that in June at the end of Spring Quarter, Stevenson Coffee House will be closing for good and my time as Manager will be ending too. At some distant future time, a different cafe/restaurant run by UC Dining will be opening – the concept is to be Kosher/Halal.

Stevenson Coffee House is the oldest cafe on campus, over 40 plus years of service. When it opened, it was one of few places in Santa Cruz County to have an espresso machine. I have been Manager for over 30 years of that 40 plus years. Also, I worked here as a student for a couple years. I even met my wife in the Coffee House.

Our sister cafe at Cowell Coffee Shop will no longer be managed by me either but will be run by UC Dining. What comes next for me, I don’t know. I have been told that I am not being fired and that I will be presented with options in the very near future.

Anyway, I am honored to have served the Stevenson. Cowell and greater UCSC communities for the last 30 plus years. I will dearly miss the interaction with students, staff and faculty. I especially will miss working with my student employees.

If you want to comment to someone higher up that would be my supervisor CAO Carolyn Golz or the person who made the decision, Asst. Vice Chancellor Sue Matthews.

With great affection,
John Hadley
Manager

Author: Bradley Allen

Bradley Allen is a reporter and photographer in the Monterey Bay Area, and a collective member of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay). Follow him on social media: @BradleySA.

One thought on “UC Santa Cruz Terminates Historic Stevenson Coffee House”

  1. The Stevenson Coffee house was a sleepy student lounge when Nixon invaded Cambodia in 1972. The lounge was taken over (“occupied”, in current parlance) by students, to be the coordinating and meeting place for the various antiwar organizations. The University opposed this usage. As things were busy all that time, and it had to be continuously staffed to keep the police from locking it up, food and drinks and coffee were brought in and sold “at cost” or donated. As the protests wound down, we negotiated the mutually face saving solution of turning it into a coffee house, rather than surrender it unconditionally to the regents. This it has been ever since. It is sort of the “peoples park” of UCSC.

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