aidan-gregory
16th September 2013

Is this the end of our Veggie Café?

‘Campus treasure’ forced to make way for University ‘Masterplan’

A popular campus hangout is under threat after the Students’ Union ordered the premises be vacated.

The Vegetarian Café, a favourite with both staff and students, has to leave its current library-adjacent location by January 31st.

Leslie Brown, who has successfully run the café for over 16 years, said she is devastated by the order and has lodged an appeal with her solicitor.

The move is part of the University’s ‘Campus Masterplan’, which includes improving disabled access to the Veggie Café’s current home in the Schunck Building, a location the Students’ Union let from the University and sub-let to the Veggie Café. Ultimately the plan is to create a space for postgraduate research students.

In a statement to The Mancunion, the SU Exec Team said, “We have agreed with the University that we will vacate from the building and we have been in discussion with the current Vegetarian Café occupying the space.

“The Vegetarian Café has been given notice of the situation several months in advance, and alternative business premises have been offered.”

The location put forward to Brown as a replacement was the current RBS home next to Academy 1. But for her it is not “a viable business alternative”.

Brown told The Mancunion, the move to the proposed premises would completely change the nature of the Veggie Café as it has been known for years. There would no longer be enough space for society meetings, it would turn the café into a takeaway, and deny her the unique advantage of the Schunck Building being so close to the University library.

She added, “It’s a unique place. There’s nowhere else like it.”

“People can come here and have healthy food, which is cheap and home cooked. We don’t buy frozen chips and things like that.”

The café is well known among students, with a reputation as charming independent alternative to other eateries dotted around campus. It is also popular with students from certain religious backgrounds because of the halal and kosher menu.

Shortly after the plans were made public last month, protests sprang up online. A ‘Save Our Veggie Café’ page on Facebook, created by Christian Union committee member James Birchenough attracted over 1,000 likes within 24 hours and now has over 2,200.

Speaking to The Mancunion, Birchenough was frank about why he started the page, “It would be a tragedy if this place closed.”

Student Abbie Huff started a similar page on popular petition website www.change.org. The page has gathered in excess of 2,300 supporters – including prominent university staff members – as well as many devoted messages of support.

One poster, Sarah Smith, wrote, “This café is simply a haven. Possibly the best café in Manchester; there is nowhere else that matches the friendliness of staff, quality of food, value for money and its beautiful spirit.”

Another, Theodore Vidgen, said the café was “the reason I didn’t get scurvy and die of lesions as a Manchester University student.”

Dr. Leif Jerram – a senior lecturer in the University’s history department – also wrote on the petition page, “All other food on campus (seriously, all) is either of poorer quality or much higher price. To lose this institution in its full form would degrade the campus environment even further.”

Talks between the café management and the Students’ Union are on going.


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