The renowned cultural icon, which operates as an all-ages music venue, performance space and cafe, won a temporary restraining order allowing the collective that runs the space to keep possession until a full hearing on the merits of their case can be heard.
A hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2014. If the Che prevails in the preliminary injunction hearing, it will maintain possession of the space until a final resolution is reached in the breach of contract lawsuit filed by Che’s legal counsel, Andrea Carter, against the University Regents and by extension, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) on July 7, 2014.
The lawsuit takes issue with University breaches of the Space Agreement lease signed in 2006 and whether the University is able to give a Notice of Termination pursuant to the terms of the Agreement. It also contests the University’s actions in denying dispute resolution and avoiding the grant of an extension to the Che. It further alleges the University has acted in bad faith by seeking or instigating lease violations or other reasons to displace the Café.
The Che Café is one of four largely student-operated cooperative nonprofits on campus. It was founded in 1980, after students pushed for the facility to become a student-run space, rather than a faculty club, since student fees were paying for building maintenance.
The name CHE is an acronym for “Cheap Healthy Eats;” initially the space was an all vegetarian restaurant. The organization began hosting music performances which made it famous in the mid-1980s and gave many now well-known musicians their start. Like the other student cooperatives (co-ops), the Che has had continual extensions of their lease or new leases drafted and signed for the past 34 years
The University officially gave Notice of Termination for the lease due to the failure of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), one of two representative student government bodies charged with certifying that the all the campus cooperatives are financially sound and in the best interests of students, to certify the Che. These determinations are to be used for extending the lease and as measures for determining student support for the venue’s continued functioning.
However only the GSA Board passed a resolution not to endorse the Che’s continued operation. The Associated Students (AS), the representative undergraduate student governance body did not pronounce on the matter. The GSA decision was arrived at after considerable involvement and influence from University administrators and legal counsel, who helped draft the resolution.
The University also continues to avoid full disclosure of its rationale for seeking the closure and displacement of the Café, which so many view as a legendary jewel and valuable asset to the University. It has offered many pretextual reasons and concerns that defy common sense or are matters that cannot be quickly addressed and remedied without terminating the Café’s possession and lease
In public statements, UCSD administrators have alleged that the decision to terminate and close the Facility involves matters of health and safety, citing a 2012 Fire Marshal recommendation that upgrades be made to the building. These include an overhead fire sprinkler and fire alarm system.
If these upgrades were actually vital, they would have been deemed mandatory rather than recommended, and the Fire Marshal would have ordered the venue closed. Instead, the Fire Marshal signed off on the cafe for the year in a follow up inspection of April 17, 2014. Further, the building has been in use by the Che Café and other university affiliates before it for nearly fifty years without any safety incident or any expression of safety concerns by UCSD administrators. As well, the Che Café has insurance and a full indemnification agreement with the University.
The Che Café points to a long history of UCSD administrators falsifying estimates for building maintenance costs and purposely misleading student government and student centers’ boards which oversee the annual operating budgets. UCSD currently estimates that over $700,000 of repairs are needed. However, independent estimates amount to less than ten percent of that amount.
The university waited to give its termination notice until the end of the Spring term, as students were leaving campus for the summer. Despite UCSD’s underhanded tactics, students continue to campaign on behalf of the Che Café. To date, it has amassed huge support from its attendees and musicians.
This is evidenced by the outpouring of public comment and letters of support addressed to the University, not to mention the over 11,500 signatures on an online petition. The online comments posted by petition signers show a broad base of students, alumni, campus staff and faculty and the surrounding community in strong support of the Che.
The Che Cafe is one of the few affordable entertainment and live music venues not to serve alcohol. It promotes a safe, respectful space that all people can enjoy and often offers local and independent or student-programming. All this is extremely rare in San Diego and increasingly everywhere in the U.S.
Arguably, the real reason for the lease termination is economic. And this is why non-students and the broader community should care and join this push to preserve the venue, even if you have never attended or heard of it before. The University administration has shifted to decisions rooted in valuing revenue-generation and profit-seeking above all else.
The Che Facility does not bring in windfall profits for the University. It stands in contrast to a Starbuck’s licensed cafe, or a parking lot where each space brings in hundreds of dollars, or even to a new science building that can house researchers securing grant dollars from which the University can take a sizeable cut. The social spaces the University seems to prefer are privately operated, profit-driven and not dedicated to providing practical educational opportunities, self development and creative expression and growth that more traditional spaces like the Che Cafe affords.
This financialization-based shift and near unilateral focus in deciding and stewarding our common and public resources is happening not just at UCSD or in many campuses across the U.S. but within many institutions, municipalities, and entities charged with safeguarding or managing our collective resources and rights.
Who will watch the watchers? When these transgressions and power plays occur, the University and Regents are making it increasingly difficult to exercise free speech and protest on campus if you are not a student or staff through its policies, most recently, PPM 510.1 Affiliate Free Speech Policy.
Do not wait until all our rights and spaces are stripped from us. Stand up and defend this space with us. A loss here is not just a loss of the Café and its attendees, but a diminishment of all of us who enjoy access to independent creative expression, entertainment, healthy food and authentic culture and community.
A fundraising campaign has been launched and the Che Café is requesting donations to cover legal expenses, improvements and maintenance to the building which the university has failed to provide, and mitigation of lost income from disruption of the concert schedule. Supporters of the Che can contribute to these expenses in any of these ways:
· Online athttp://www.gofundme.com/
· Attend the Che Café during a scheduled concert (see schedule at http://thechecafe.blogspot.
· By mail at: CHE Café 9500 Gilman Drive M/C 0323 La Jolla, CA 92093-0323
Supporters are also encouraged to express their concerns about UCSD’s course of action to the administrators responsible. Letters of support can be sent to these individuals, at these email addresses:
· Chancellor Pradeep Khosla email@example.com
· Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Vice Chancellor Alan Houston: email@example.com
· Associate Vice Chancellor Gary Ratcliff: firstname.lastname@example.org
· UCEN Director Sharon Van Bruggen: email@example.com
· Associated Students President: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Graduate Student Association President: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org<
Please also “cc” your support letter/email to the CHE Cafe at email@example.com
This is a lightly edited release from the Che Cafe Coillective.