Equator Coffees & Teas likely to close 2nd campus location

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Debbie Yuen/File

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Equator Coffees & Teas will likely close its location in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union by this summer, coming after a series of restaurant closures that have occurred in Lower Sproul Plaza starting June 2017.

The closure is the result of a contract termination between Chartwells, a dining service company, and the ASUC Student Union. Chartwells has now closed several of the businesses it operated in the MLK Student Union and Eshleman Hall, although Bear’s Lair, True Blue Burgers and Equator in MLK will remain open through May.

“At this time we’re evaluating options for the MLK Equator space,” said campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff in an email. “It is likely there will be a closure (at least temporarily, possibly 1-2 months) this summer while we explore vendor options.”

Equator Coffee, which was founded in Marin County in 1995, currently has seven retail cafes and more than 500 wholesale accounts, according to its website. The company states that it focuses on delivering service with quality, sustainability and social responsibility.

Adam Clemons, a campus librarian for African and African American Studies, said he was surprised to hear the cafe would be closing. After eight months of frequently buying coffee from its location, Clemons thought the cafe was doing well.

“From my estimation, this is the best on campus,” Clemons said. “And it’s easy — it’s in walking distance from where I work.”

If it had to be replaced, he added, he hoped that it would be supplanted by another “equally good” coffee shop.

Under the contract, Chartwells paid $500,000 in rent annually for many of the food service locations in the plaza. Chartwells’ business locations were not as popular among customers as the company had originally projected, according to Ratliff.

In the 2017 budget recommendation from the Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation, or CAPRA, the committee cited concern about the Chartwells contract.

“CAPRA remains concerned about the performance of the new Lower Sproul facilities, and the Student Affairs’ inability to explain how things are going relative to the projections made at the time the project was approved by campus and the student body,” the report stated.

With the loss of the coffee shop, campus junior Maggie Chen said she would like to see more cafes in the area, as the only place that has tea that she likes is Asha Tea House in Downtown Berkeley.

“Asha is the only one that I know of that serves actual tea — the other places that I know of just serve the hot tea bags,” Chen said.

In the meantime, the ASUC Student Union is currently trying out different “pop-up” restaurants every month to experiment with the now-vacated spaces of the plaza. In February, a new TeaOne took over the former Equator Coffees location in Eshleman Hall.

Alicia Kim is the lead businesses and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.

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