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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

BioBrew announces permanent closure in light of staffing shortages

Students, staff sign poster in support of bringing back the SciLab coffee stand 

By SONORA SLATER — features@theaggie.org


Imagine, at 8 a.m. on a rainy day in October, damp fog seeping through your clothes, you slip inside the Sciences Lab Building (SLB) for your morning class. The door makes a dull thud as it closes behind you, echoing through the empty building and shutting out the brisk wind, allowing warmth to slowly begin to seep back into your fingers and toes. 

Half-asleep after staying up too late the night before finishing an assignment, you walk over to the northwest corner of the building where you serve yourself a cup of BioBrew coffee. With the comforting warmth of the cup in your hands and the sound of rain clinking on the roof above, you head to your lecture hall fueled by caffeine and prepared to take on organic chemistry.

BioBrew, a secondary location of the ASUCD Coffee House, alongside CoHo South, closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. At the time, it was meant to be a temporary closure while on-campus operations ceased. The coffee shop, which opened in fall of 2005, was located in the SLB on Hutchinson Dr. and brewed Starbucks coffee before switching to ecoGrounds in 2018. They also served pastries, fruit, tea and more, and had a small dining and studying area with a few tables and stools under the nearby stairway.  

When the main CoHo location and CoHo South reopened in Sept. 2021, it was reported that BioBrew would most likely remain closed until the spring due to staffing shortages — but there were still plans to reopen the cafe when it was possible to do so. 

Earlier this quarter, signs were still up in the area that indicated plans to reopen BioBrew, according to Jill Oberski, a sixth-year PhD candidate in the Entomology Department. However, during the week of Oct. 10, Oberski said that a new sign was put up in the area announcing that BioBrew was closing permanently.

“I thought for sure BioBrew would come back after it closed for the pandemic, but it kept being delayed more and more,” Oberski said. “I still haven’t been able to get a clear reason about why they’re closing it.” 

Lolly Dull, a fourth-year English and biological sciences double major and the CoHo South student manager, explained that while they can’t say exactly who made the call to close BioBrew, the reason for its closure is continued staffing shortages. 

“As we’ve been getting staffing numbers up during this quarter, we’ve been focusing on staffing the locations that get the most business, which are the main and South CoHo,” Dull said. “Since CoHo South employees solely man BioBrew, we needed to focus on getting our staffing up first.”

However, according to Dull, there aren’t currently any plans to use the space for something else, and should staffing significantly increase in the future, the “permanent” closure might not be so permanent. 

“For the time being, it’s going to be permanent,” Dull said.

After the sign announcing the closure was posted, Oberski hung up a piece of butcher paper nearby for students and staff to sign in order to show their support for bringing back BioBrew.

“For the first two years of my PhD, BioBrew was a staple,” Oberski said. “Being able to buy a serve-yourself cup of coffee for super cheap right across the street from my building — I took it for granted.”

Some of the dozens of messages on the sheet read, “Your uncaffeinated scientists cannot perform at their best without BioBrew,” “All my homies love BioBrew,” “Y’all have fueled us for years” and even “If you need employees I will work for you.”

BioBrew’s singular Yelp review, posted in April 2019 by user David E., reads, “This is still one of my favorite places on campus to grab coffee; […] give the strange coffee stand inside an academic building a chance if you’re in this part of campus.”

Oberski said that because BioBrew has been closed since the pandemic began, many of the students on campus now have never been to the coffee shop.

“So many people don’t know what they’re missing,” Oberski said. “We miss it every single day!” 


Written by: Sonora Slater — features@theaggie.org