Coffee Spot moves out as Lower Sproul renovation moves forward

Katherine Chen/Staff
The Coffee Spot, a coffee and sandwich shop located on Lower Sproul is now closed.

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The Coffee Spot, which began moving out of the Bear’s Lair Food Court Sunday, is one of multiple vendors that will be displaced by the overhaul of Lower Sproul Plaza set to begin this fall.

The space is being cleared to begin work on the $223 million Lower Sproul Plaza redevelopment project, which entails the demolition of Eshleman Hall and renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and Cesar Chavez Student Center, among other projects. The renovations were set in motion by the 2010 passage of the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative, which approved a student fee to finance improvements to the safety and sustainability of buildings on the plaza.

The campus cafe closed on the same day as the Taqueria Oso De Oro, which is located in an adjacent space. Both are owned by Haitham Alloun, who has managed The Coffee Spot since 1987 and opened the taqueria in 2010.

The ASUC Auxiliary — the body that manages leased space on campus — is seeking the closure of the remaining Bear’s Lair Food Court vendors in the next week, according to Hedy Chen, an undergraduate student representative to the ASUC Commercial and Student Services Board. Alloun said he wanted to stay in business until the other vendors on Lower Sproul vacated the space, but his negotiations with the ASUC were unsuccessful.

“I begged to stay,” Alloun said. “I practically begged them to stay until the end of the year.”

Chen said when Alloun’s lease was signed it was set to end in the fall of 2012, and last February, Alloun was offered a lease extension that he did not accept.

“There were some recent discussions about a short term lease extension through the winter, but a short term extension is not consistent with the current needs of the construction project,” Chen said in an email.

Lower Sproul Plaza is going to be prepared for construction once all vendors have vacated the premises. The space is going to be completely stripped down and remodeled, according to Chen.

Subway, which is also located in the food court, is still involved in negotiations about its exit, and the Bear’s Lair Pub will remain in business until the end of football season due to an agreement with the ASUC Auxiliary.

Alloun said he did not sign the lease extension from February because it did not make sense to sign after the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative had passed, guaranteeing he would eventually have to leave before construction began. But he did want to remain in business until the other plaza vendors left as well, he said. He also said he would not have spent more than $150,000 remodeling his two businesses in 2010 had he known that the Lower Sproul project was going to take place.

“If I knew that (the renovation) was going to happen, why would I want to waste my time for two years building business, establishing business?” Alloun said.

Chen confirmed that discussions on reimbursement for Alloun’s remodeling expenses occurred but would not comment on the content of those discussions.

Current plans dictate that the construction will continue through the fall of 2015, according to Christine Shaff, communications director of the campus Facilities Services Department. No vendors in Lower Sproul are guaranteed a space to continue business after the redevelopment is finished, Chen said.

“We don’t have set agreements for these businesses to come back in but we’re definitely … not closed off to that option,” Chen said.

Contact Libby Rainey at [email protected]