Public Comment

Controversy at the Bear’s Lair Food Court

By Nad Permaul
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

The Auxiliary Store Operations Board of the Associated Students of the University of California voted to offer terms to the Bear’s Lair food court vendors that the students on the board negotiated last spring. Those terms were offered to each vendor in June 2009 by the Auxiliary in the presence of two board members, Chief Victoria Harrison and former student Co-Chair David Rhoads. Two of the vendors accepted the terms, one did not. They were asked by the board at the time the terms were offered if they had any concerns. The principal concerns expressed to the board by the two vendors who accepted the terms were the length of the lease, the terms for any extension options and the number of months of partial payment when school is not in session. The board adjusted the lease language to extend the length of the lease and to alter the terms of the option and months or partial payment. In October, after the language was completed by the campus, one of the vendors, The Coffee Spot, signed. We are working with the Coffee Spot on the physical improvements. The owner has expressed nothing but satisfaction with the new lease and our relationship. 

The other vendor who accepted the terms in June had a full month to express his concerns and did not. Then, yesterday, two days before his deadline to sign, comes an announcement of a strike in conjunction with the vendor who did not accept the board’s offer in June and was aware that by doing so she had forfeited her right to an extension.  

The Tully’s contract was negotiated and approved by the board in advance of the terms offered to the food court vendors. All leases are discrete and distinct, based on a variety of factors, costs of improvements, risk, location, and other conditions. The Tully’s lease was approved just as the economy crashed, they paid for substantial improvements to the location to make it meet the campus requirements, and they were assuming a risk in a new business location that was untested. The board voted to approve the terms unanimously on Sept. 23, 2008.  

Each of the Bear’s Lair vendors spoke to the board months later, in May 2009, insisting that they would be happy to make significant physical improvements and pay larger rents to remain in their locations. Based on those promises, the board overturned its December 2008 decision to go out to bid on all the spaces and agreed to negotiate new terms for an extension of the vendors’ leases. A subcommittee of the board, made up entirely of students, discussed the terms and presented them to the board. The board adopted the new terms, and the offers were made in June 2009 well after the Tully’s lease had been negotiated and approved. One of the vendors has lived up to his commitment to sign the lease and to his statements to the board last spring. The Bear’s Lair vendors proposing the strike have ovens and hoods that allow them to cook on site and create costs for them that vendors such as the Coffee Spot and Tully’s do not pay at their current locations. These critical amenities (they are the only vendor spaces where cooking can take place on site) also make their sites much more attractive in the marketplace. A recent proposed vendor, who did not get board approval, was willing to pay almost $1,000,000 for physical improvements to get similar conditions for its proposed site. 

If you have questions about the decisions made by the board, you should speak to the board chair, Nish Rajan. 


Nad Permaul is director of the ASUC Auxiliary.