The UC San Diego University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB), a student-run board that oversees how student fees are spent, voted today to cut The Che Cafe’s maintenance costs from its 2014-2015 budget, putting the future of the long-running, all-ages DIY music venue in doubt.
UCAB At Large Representative and Che supporter Justin Dewaele said the decision came down to a 9 to 4 vote, with no abstentions, following a closed executive session. The UCAB charter allows it to close meetings to the public to discuss personnel issues, legal matters or investments.
This vote very likely means that after 34 years as a venue, The Che Cafe will no longer be able to function as it currently does. The decision today hinged upon $722,471 in maintenance costs and repairs, including the installation of a fire-sprinkler system to bring the building up to code, according to a report from facilities engineering and management consultant ISES Corporation.
Because The Che Cafe—which was built in 1942, and is run by students and volunteers—is part of University Centers, the money for those repairs would come from student fees. Under its Master Space Agreement, the university is obligated to maintain the facility, but without the funding to do so, The Che Cafe will have to close no later than September.
Today’s session was the fourth in a series of UCAB meetings pertaining to the Che, in which dozens of volunteers, musicians and members of the public spoke passionately about the venue and pleaded their case to the board to keep it in the budget.
On Monday, Rob Crow of Pinback spoke favorably of the Che and its importance to the local music community.
“I started going to The Che in the '80s, and I was inspired by the people and everything around it,” he told the board. “I’m glad that there’s somewhere for my kids to go.”
Many speakers emphasized that the venue is a safe space where young people can meet and share ideas, see live music, participate in cultural activities and seek out education about topics ranging from living a meat-free lifestyle to sexual-abuse awareness—and without the influence of alcohol.
Che volunteer Davide Carpano—who organized a petition to save the Che that has since received more than 10,000 signatures—put the Che’s mission in simple, but strong terms: “We are here to do public good.”
In a bizarre twist, however, Fox News swooped in to kick The Che Cafe while it was down, describing in a May 21 story the venue’s namesake, Che Guevara, as a “ruthless killer” and remarking that this incident is “teaching a new generation of students about the failure of communism.”
With the actual building housing the Che likely to close this fall, the university has proposed that the Che could continue operating as a booking agent for other venues on campus, including The Loft and The Stage Room, though a final decision hasn't been reached. And there’s likely to be a longer battle ahead, as both the university and The Che Cafe have retained legal counsel.
Following the vote, The Che Cafe summarized its future plans in a tweet: “WE’RE NOT DONE FIGHTING.”
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