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Che Cafe Signs Lease With UCSD After Years Of Negotiations

The Ché Café Collective at the UC San Diego campus is pictured in this undated photo.
KPBS Staff
The Ché Café Collective at the UC San Diego campus is pictured in this undated photo.
Che Cafe Signs Lease With UCSD After Years Of Negotiations
Che Cafe Signs Lease With UCSD After Years Of Negotiations GUESTS: Lane Barlow, core member Che Cafe Collective Tom Corringham, core member, Che Cafe Collective

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Since the heyday in the 1980s, the student run Che Cafe was an alternative music venue hosting Green Day, death cab for cutie or Billy Corgan of the smashing pumpkins.[ MUSIC ]Since that time, the Che Cafe fell out of favor with administrators. They worked with the collective close in order that students did not observe. This tide has turned and Che Cafe has gotten a new lease on life with a new lease from the school of ministration. After several years in limbo, the café and three other collectives have a raid to an eight year lease agreement which includes structural upgrades. Joining me is Tom pouring ham. Welcome to the program.Thank you for having us.And Elaine Barlow joins us hello.Happy to be here.Tom, for the sake of people unfamiliar with the Che Cafe Collective, could you describe the buildings and what they have offered to the community or the past 30 years?Sure. It is a small music venue. We are located on UCSD covered in murals depicting Angela Davis, and various icons of the old left.The café was older close back in 2015. Students occupied the buildings and after several months, the school relented at the status of the café was in limbo. Why has it taken this long to reach a deal with you see Sandy go ?A conversation was open with administrators and students two years ago, following several months of occupation of the building. At that time, demonstrators proposed an entirely new lease which had to be renegotiated from the top down as opposed to returning to the lease we had had for multiple decades. We negotiated that lease and that took time. On top of which, students were full-time students with part-time jobs, trying to work at that co-op on top of that and do the negotiated in addition, it took a lot of time.I can imagine that would've taken some time.It seems you gotten a good deal. There is free rent and utilities. Is that a sign that the University is on board with you now ?We hope so. I mean, time will tell what our relationship with the University will be. I think there has been ups and downs but I am optimistic that we will have good years to come.Do you know why the relationship got so antagonistic?In the 1980s and early 1990s, the University did some things that were antagonistic towards the collective and there were Citians to keep the space alive followed by a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 1993. Since then, that Che Cafe has been active in resisting the increases on campus. Part of those battles have soured the relationship between the Che Cafe Collective and that administration.Up until nowCorrect.One thing I believe that helped her campaign that Che Cafe is named a in danger historical site. What is the significance ?It has been on campus for over 50 years and it has provided a safe and sober space for the local music scene in addition, we provide something to students that anywhere else does. It is unique. There are not many university campuses that can boast hosting such an amazing cultural venue. We do a lot of activities with the surrounding community. We serve as a meeting space for radical leftist organizations.You said the number of UC's students who are members of the collective is low compared to the membership from outside the school. Tom, do you see that is a problem?We would like to have more student involvement. In early 2018, we will have a large membership drive to encourage more student participation. We will also reach out to the local music community to try to find more diverse music acts. We would like to reach out to more female identifying performance and more people of color. We would like to reach out to the LGBT community.Lane, what chines -- changes will they go under a -- to go ?The University said they will put in a sprinkler system and a new ADA compliant bathroom and a parking lot to be more handicap accessible.Do you see the Che Cafe returning to what it used to to be in the 1980s and 90s in the sense of being serving food and being the same kind of a music venue it was ?In the sense of serving food and in the sense of being accessible music venue, but I think also, we are currently in discussions about how we can continue moving into the future and be relevant to students and the broader community in San Diego. We are less interested in returning to the 1980s and 90s but go to the 2020.I have been speaking with Lane. Thank you very much.Thank you.

More than two years after UC San Diego students occupied the co-operative Che Cafe to stave off an eviction notice, university administrators reached a four-year lease deal with operators of the alternative music venue and three other campus collectives.

The agreement, reached Friday, includes a 40-month lease with a possible 48-month extension for Che Cafe, the Food Co-op, the General Store Co-op and Groundwork Books. Administrators agreed to pay for a new fire suppression system that had been a point of contention during negotiations.

"There’s a recognition that UCSD has come to see the values of the collectives here and for the wider community," Che Cafe Collective core member Tom Corringham said. "The current marketing campaign is that we’re a place of non-tradition. I think we’re emblematic of that, and we could be a feather in their cap if they wanted us to be."


Corringham said the venue will need to maintain its non-profit status and cover its own liability insurance, though rent will be only $1 per year and utilities will be paid for by the university. The collective will have to pay for upgrades to its kitchen before it can serve food again, he said. Construction on the fire system is already underway and is expected to be completed this winter.

“UC San Diego strongly supports the campus co-ops and the important experience they provide to our students,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan González said in a press release. “The co-ops provide an enhanced cultural interaction with a diverse student population, bringing new opportunities and engagement that our students would not otherwise encounter. We want our co-ops to thrive and be successful.”

The university tried to shut down the venue in 2015, citing building maintenance issues and issued an eviction notice in March. Student protestors occupied the building for more than 100 days before the university agreed to let the co-op stay.

Corringham and Collective member Lane Barlow join KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on the Che Cafe's role in San Diego culture.