Shortage of trained staff forces Green Bean’s temporary closure

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The interior of the Green Bean at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 17, 2021. Em Balaghi/The Occidental

In March 2020, the Green Bean, Occidental’s student-run coffee shop, temporarily shut down and has remained closed because of a shortage of trained baristas and managers, according to Amy Muñoz, associate vice president for hospitality services. Currently, the Green Bean’s location is being used as storage for Occidental’s Tiger Takeout program. There are tentative plans for the Green Bean to reopen next semester.

The empty interior of the Green Bean with a mask mandate, “Keep the Community Safe” flyer posted on the register at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 17, 2021. Em Balaghi/The Occidental

Before March 2020, the Green Bean was open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. until midnight, providing space for students to study or catch up with friends while drinking coffee and eating pastries. The other dining options on campus, the Marketplace and the Tiger Cooler, close much earlier.

Lily Fisher (junior), a former Green Bean barista, said she received an email in May from her former managers that was sent to all Green Bean staff. The email said the Green Bean would not operate during the Fall 2021 semester due to a lack of staff, according to Fisher.

At the beginning of the semester, students could get coffee at the Marketplace, the Tiger Cooler and the Coffee Cart, according to Muñoz. However, the Coffee Cart closed after the first week of classes due to a lack of staff, according to Muñoz. The Marketplace and Tiger Cooler still provide coffee options.

Hannah Pearlman (junior), a former Green Bean barista, said there is not a comparable student space on campus.

“The Green Bean was more of an experience, and working there and seeing my friends was part of the reason it was such a fun job,” Pearlman said.

Muñoz said the former Green Bean managers were offered barista positions at the Coffee Cart before it closed.

“But working at the Coffee Cart was not a direct replacement,” Muñoz said. “It would not provide the same type of experience they need to learn how to run a brick-and-mortar store.”

Ella Price (senior) said she noticed a change in campus life when the Green Bean closed.

“The Marketplace coffee isn’t the same,” Price said. “I miss being able to hang out at the Green Bean with my friends and do homework there. The noise and vibes helped with studying, and there’s no place in [the Academic Commons] that is similar. I would need to go off campus to find a similar spot.”

The Green Bean is a unique aspect of Campus Dining because it is entirely student-run.

“There are five managers, each in charge of a different aspect of the business,” Muñoz said. “Currently, there are only two on campus, and both are trained in the same manager position due to study abroad plans which would remove them each from campus for a semester.”

The year and a half gap in which Occidental’s campus was closed prevented the natural progression in Green Bean management and training, where senior managers would train junior shift-leads and so on, according to Muñoz.

While the Green Bean is student-run, its staff collaborate with Campus Dining in order to gain experience, according to Muñoz.

“Campus Dining hopes to meet with the managers within the next few days to begin talking about potential spring reopening plans. Nothing is confirmed yet, but these conversations need to start happening immediately if the Green Bean wants to reopen this academic year,” Muñoz said.

With only the Marketplace and the Cooler as options for food, students are eager for the reopening of the Green Bean, according to Price.

“Even without the shop being open, it would be nice to have that space available to study and work to try and recreate the Green Bean,” Price said.

Pearlman said she encourages students to continue to advocate for the Green Bean’s reopening.

“It’s such an integral part of campus life,” Pearlman said.