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Opinion: Should we be able to spend weekends at The Bistro?

Marit Hickey

Staff Writer

Photo by Jason Lehman

Many questions can be asked about Willamette as an institution, but one in particular weighs heavily on the student body: why isn't The Bistro, the beloved student-run coffee shop at the heart of campus, open on the weekends?

Since opening its doors in the fall of 1986, The Bistro has been one of the only spots for students to gather on campus that isn’t a library or academic building. Originally founded by two sophomores, Eric Fishman and John Donovan, The Bistro was designed to give students somewhere to grab a late-night or between-meals snack and meet each other when Goudy closed.

I was almost personally offended the first time I learned that The Bistro was closed on weekends. After all, it is the nature of a young adult to indulge in the biological urge to buy themselves a little treat as a reward for studying on a Saturday. In preparation for this article, The Collegian sent out a survey that asked 42 Willamette students if they wanted The Bistro to be open on weekends in addition to its regular hours, which they largely did. Of the 42 responses, 71.4% said, “Yes,” with an additional 26.2% selecting the “Sometimes / limited hours” option. So if one were to generalize, it seems that most students want The Bistro to have at least some weekend hours.

When asked why there aren't any weekend hours at The Bistro, Maddy Montanye (‘25), the kitchen manager for The Bistro, gave two main reasons. Right now, it is not financially viable to staff on the weekends, and furthermore, student workers deserve to have breaks to study, engage in hobbies and have social lives. When told that students seemed interested in weekend hours, they said that as it is, “we’re already wondering if we are open too often, because we’re losing money. We’ve had a hard time garnering interest in our late-night events.”

Later, talking about the relationship between The Bistro and post-COVID Willamette students, they added, “We want to be a culturally significant spot. Maybe being open on the weekends would boost that, but at the same time I’m not sure it would be worth it. For example, we put in a lot of effort into being a fun space in the evenings, and we don’t get a lot of engagement in that. I think we might not get as much engagement as you would assume on the weekends.”

Hearing this, it became clear that the issue is not so cut and dry. Why would The Bistro add weekend hours when the effort they put into their current times is not being reflected back?

It would be easy to reach the conclusion that if Willamette as a campus wants to keep claiming its undying love and support for The Bistro (and perhaps gain some weekend hours), then maybe students should show up more often when it’s open.

There is not any moral value attached to your choice of whether or not to go to The Bistro; college students don’t have especially large budgets. But if there’s one other thing about college students that is commonly understood, it’s that sometimes we want a little treat at the end of the day. It’s no coincidence that The Bistro was established here on campus by students. It was designed to be our place to hang out, run into friends, and most of all buy ourselves that little treat after a hard day.

When asked if there’s anything they want people to know about The Bistro, Montanye said, “[i]t probably just seems like we’re another part of the university machine, but we’re not. We are for the students, by the students, and we try to create a good space. It’s hard to be a student-run business, but we’re giving people a lot of really valuable job and life skills. Don’t count us out.”

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