May 24, 2019 | 60° F

U ’s Scarlet Latte cafe closes due to lack of traffic

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

The Scarlet Latte cafe opened two years ago inside Archibald S. Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus. But the cafe will close after today due to low traffic.

After two years, the Scarlet Latte Cafe at the Archibald S. Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus is closing its doors at the end of today.

Lack of traffic has made its operation a loss, said Lila Fredenburg, director of administrative services for Rutgers Libraries.

She said Rutgers Dining Services, which operates the cafe, decided to cut its losses and abandon the space, which the library owns.

Dining Services and the library were not financial partners, and Dining Services was charged no rent to operate in the cafe space, she said, although the library offered help to keep the cafe afloat.

“We did try a few things, and we worked with Dining Services,” she said. “For example, we suggested lowering the price of the coffee, so they switched to a different coffee vendor.”

The library looked into finding another food vendor, but they could not find anyone interested in operating the cafe, she said. They may consider having another food vendor in the future if someone steps forward.

Instead, the library has installed several vending machines: one for coffee, one for snacks and one for cold drinks. Fredenburg said the space would remain open for students studying in the library.

“It’s not really closing. It’s still going to be a space for studying, events and getting food,” she said.

She attributed lack of traffic to a lack of proper publicity for the space. The library attempted to gain more attention with advertising, but the effort was a failure.

Vanessa Cagno, who began working there last spring, said the cafe was never really given a full chance to market itself.

Cagno, a Rutgers Business School senior, said the arrangement with Dining Services and the administrative structure aggravated the problem.

“The cafe is not a huge priority [for Dining Services], so there’s no shift manager there all the time,” she said. “We’ve given our suggestions, but Dining Services is in a tight bind not being here to supervise what happens.”

About seven employees work at the Scarlet Latte, and many of them are sad to see the space go, Cagno said.

“I applied to work at the Scarlet Latte because I’ve worked in cafes before, and I really love the atmosphere,” she said. “It’s pretty relaxing.”

She said while the overall environment was fairly quiet, the number of students going through depended on the time of day. Morning hours were busier, as well as common class hours from 3 to 5 p.m.

According to the Rutgers Dining Services website, the cafe was typically open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday, and was closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Cagno said the Friday closing was a recent attempt to save money on the cafe.

The demographics of the customers varied as well, she said. Coffee was the most popular offering, and some came every day to buy the coffee and study. Many of the visitors were library faculty, professors and graduate students.

Daniel Schement, another employee, agrees the cafe has the potential to be far more popular. Soon after he heard the news about the closing in the beginning of October, he started a petition to keep the business open.

He said the employees, who hung the petition in the cafe, collected around 120 signatures. The group hopes to hand in the petition tomorrow.

Many of them already work in Brower Commons, he said. Instead of losing their jobs when the cafe closes, they will most likely have their shifts moved to another day.

“It’s a shame, because it’s really great for students to have as a pick-me-up,” he said. “They can get food without having to worry about going to the student center or the dining hall.”

He said the main reason the cafe is closing is because of the bad location, which is rather out of the way.

It is not because of the quality of the food or coffee, which he said was good because it was made fresh.

“If we notice the coffee is getting stale and nobody is drinking it, we dump it out and make a new batch from the beans,” he said. “In Brower, I think the coffee sits there until someone ends up replacing it.”

Murka Jeancharles, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she is a regular at the cafe and was surprised to hear it is closing.

She said she studies there every day and usually picks up a cup of coffee or a pastry to accompany her work.

Even if the cafe is closing, she plans to continue with her habit.

“I don’t know, I just like the tables here and I do my work better when I’m here,” she said.

By Erin Petenko

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