La Cocina’s Cantina restaurants leave Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

la cocina restaurant uc berkeley contract
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The La Cocina’s Cantina restaurants in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union will not be reopening in the fall.

La Cocina’s contract with the student union — aside from a continuing partnership with Pinky and Red’s — ended May 31. The ASUC Student Union Board of Directors is currently revisioning the plan for the first floor of the building, according to Bahar Navab, executive director of the ASUC Student Union.

The board’s intention was for La Cocina restaurants to be short-term tenants while it thought of a broader vision, Navab added. Additionally, La Cocina’s lease was largely subsidized by other student union revenue sources.

“Unfortunately, this model is not sustainable and prevents the Student Union from contributing commercial funds to student services and programming,” Navab said in an email.

The board is still deciding what will replace La Cocina, according to Navab.

The re-envisioning of the building has involved conducting surveys from members of the Berkeley community in a yearlong process, according to Ken Lohatepanont, chair of the board of directors.

“This strategic planning will continue this year,” Lohatepanont said in an email. “The Board seeks to ensure the Student Union champions the values of Berkeley, serves the community, and generates the revenue it needs to contribute to student services.”

While La Cocina restaurants provided “great food,” the board’s long-term vision will go a different way, according to Navab.

La Cocina wasn’t able to finish out its contract through May due to UC Berkeley’s closure.

According to Tina Stevens, owner of the La Cocina restaurant A Girl Named Pinky, the restaurant will continue to offer delivery and catering services, as Berkeley students enjoyed its food. She added that she regrets she will not be able to say goodbye to her customers due to the closure.

“We are grateful for the opportunity for our business owners to partner with the Student Union for the two years of our pop-up lease,” said Geetika Agrawal, program director of La Cocina, in an email.

All the businesses involved have enjoyed growing their operations while being part of the UC Berkeley community, added Agrawal.

La Cocina remains committed to the businesses leaving the student union and is currently letting these businesses use the San Francisco La Cocina kitchen rent-free. La Cocina is also working on future opportunities for the businesses, according to Agrawal.

Other than Pinky and Red’s, the Bear’s Lair Tavern will be reopening in the fall when the student union is able to open. 1951 Coffee Company has not decided whether to renew its lease for fall, as of press time.

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_

Correction(s):
Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 1951 Coffee Company would be reopening in the fall. In fact, the company has not decided whether or not it will renew its lease with the student union.