NORTHWEST COMMUNITY College is ending its lease arrangements with the operators of the Kiva cafe located in the college’s trades building.
The decision ends nearly 10 years of having a private operator manage what had previously been a college-run food and beverage facility.
College officials aren’t yet saying what they will do with the space although it is understood there will continue to be a food and beverage facility in the space.
“We haven’t gotten to the final stage of that,” said college president Denise Henning of what will exactly happen next. “We just know we need the space.”
She did say that whatever happens will be something that is “more appropriate student space” and called changes at the location part of an overall assessment of college activities.
The Kiva is set to close within the next three weeks.
“It wasn’t just a coffee shop,” said part owner and operator Elaine Sanchez.
In its time, the Kiva has hosted student rallies, election night parties, birthday parties, local and regional bands, film and video nights and even an appearance by the late Jack Layton.
Its squash courts have also seen consistent use over the years.
Sanchez said she fought to keep the space open, but was unsuccessful. “They were firm,” she said of college officials.
Sanchez said she often offered space free for community groups. “Morally I could never justify trying to squeeze a buck out of people who didn’t have a buck to give,” she said.
Sanchez said what fuelled her, and what made her love her job, was offering an atmosphere dedicated to health on many levels.
“You’re promoting a healthy atmosphere with sports, community, music,” she said. “How am I going to find a space with this? There is nowhere for the Kiva to move.”
With a philosophy that involved giving, Sanchez noted that her primary goal wasn’t about making money from the space. Despite this, things were starting to turn up.
“This was the first year I thought I could come out ahead,” she said. “I was getting hopeful.”
And despite feeling the loss of a life and dream built, Sanchez said she is looking forward, and has faith that good things will come.
“One door closes, another door opens,” she said.
In the meantime, Northwest Community College Students’ Union organizer Mikael Jensen said the union has been making the argument that students should have full and free access to the Kiva space.
“This is the largest campus of the college with the most students and there is no student-run space,” he said.
The students’ union has been able to stage events in the Kiva but has had to pay the Kiva’s operators, a situation Jensen said is wrong given that the space is in a college owned and operated building.
“What that really is is the privatization of a public space,” he said.
A formal request by the students’ union to take over the Kiva space has been denied but Jensen says the college is going to offer the union space elsewhere on campus.