Jabberwocky Caf hopes to become the talk of campus
The Schine Underground has for years been a barren wasteland of outdated arcade games and dilapidated pool tables, home only to a student radio station and an occasional organizational meeting. But the latest addition, the Jabberwocky Caf, could change the face of the student center. The new caf harkens back to an old Syracuse University pastime – the on-campus bar.
The Jabberwocky Caf opens its doors tomorrow at 7 p.m. Extensive renovation has transformed a former game room into a caf featuring coffee, a pool table, a wireless computer network and a projection screen for movies, digital cable and video games. A UU Comedy Amateur Night show will kick off the grand-opening festivities Saturday evening.
The caf will serve food and drinks from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It will be open for lounging from 11:30 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 2 p.m. to midnight on weekends.
The original Jabberwocky was a bar in the basement of Kimmel Hall, where the computer cluster is today. It opened in 1969, hosted up-and-coming musical acts and secured a place in the hearts of SU students until financial problems forced its closure in the early ’80s.
‘One of the things that a lot of people look back on is some of the shows they had there,’ said Paul Ryan, a graduate assistant for Student Centers and Programming Services, ‘like James Taylor before anyone knew who he was.’
The Schine Student Center opened shortly after Jabberwocky shut down, and plans to put a similar bar in the Schine Underground were scrapped when the state upped the legal drinking age to 21.
Last fall, Student Centers and Programming Services surveyed 2,900 students for feedback on the Schine and Goldstein student centers. The students returned a clear answer.
‘Over and over you kept seeing the same thing with Schine,’ said Bridget Talbot, director of Student Center and Programming Services. ‘No place to hang out, want a social lounge, want a place where you can talk, hang out with your friends, do group work, but still be able to have coffee and those types of things.’
Student Centers and Programming Services Director Nate Emmons traveled to schools around upstate New York, including University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Ithaca College, Siena College and Union College, and decided on a solution to Schine’s woes. A new coffee shop would put the desolate Underground to use and revive the traditions of the Jabberwocky bar.
The design and construction team spent the summer turning the old game room, which used to contain two old pool tables, some couches and a TV, into the lavish new Jabberwocky Caf. Renovations cost the school $32,000, and Emmons estimated Food Services sank another $25,000 into the coffee bar.
The walls of the original Jabberwocky, named for a mystical beast from the novel ‘Through the Looking Glass,’ were painted with Alice in Wonderland-inspired murals. The new caf is decorated in a more contemporary style. It’s dominated by burgundy tones and offers a stark distinction from the dcor of the rest of the building.
‘Does it match with the green outside the windows?’ asked Emmons. ‘Absolutely not, and that’s OK.’
The coffee bar is operated by Food Services, the same people who run all the campus dining centers. The caf will serve an array of snacks to complement the coffee, including desserts, juices and pre-wrapped sandwiches. Prices do not seem to be set in stone, but the caf’s architects know what to expect.
‘It’ll be on the higher end,’ Talbot said. ‘It’s not going to be inexpensive, let’s put it that way.’
To ease some of the financial pain, the caf will accept SUpercard. The Jabberwocky creators also said that they serve what some believe is a superior product, Fair Trade coffee. Fair Trade prides itself on paying reasonable wages to the farmers and workers that produce its coffee.
‘We’re really the only place around that actually serves Fair Trade coffee,’ Ryan said.
‘We found that students were much more supportive of a coffee house that obviously supported something like that,’ Talbot added.
For non-edible entertainment, the Jabberwocky Caf features a projection TV screen equipped with digital cable. On select nights, the caf will also hook up a Playstation 2. So far they have one game, ‘Dance Dance Revolution,’ in which players compete to follow on-screen dance moves. The game is something of a phenomenon – Emmons said that the University at Buffalo has a 90-member weekly DDR club.
‘We’re thinking about buying ‘Madden 2004′ and some of those games and having some tournaments,’ Emmons said.
The caf’s only noticeable design flaw is its proximity to the WERW student radio broadcast studio. The studio is in use almost 24 hours a day and is only accessible through the caf. WERW has expressed concern about the setup, and the Student Centers and Programming Services staff plans to help the station relocate to another part of Schine.
Though visitors have to wind down two flights of stairs to get to the Jabberwocky Caf from Schine’s main lobby, there is a convenient entrance on the Waverly Avenue side of the building that the caf’s organizers will use to attract more patrons to the coffee shop.
They’re also reaching out to students through an aggressive advertising campaign in the student center and other places frequented by students. Some Jabberwocky Caf team members set up a prize wheel in the Schine lobby Thursday and gave out T-shirts and coupons to lucky winners.
Though many students have yet to be hit by the advertising blitz, they still have expressed interest in what the caf has to offer.
‘It’d be more accessible than going all the way down to Marshall Street for Starbucks,’ said Moira Denatale, a sophomore aerospace engineering and political science major.
‘I’m not really a frequenter of coffee houses,’ said Mike Corcoran, a freshman information sciences major. ‘But I know some friends of mine who definitely would, or would at least give it a shot to see what it was like.’
Emmons is confident that the unique atmosphere and on-campus location of the Jabberwocky Caf will boost its recognition and prove its importance to students.
‘As this place grows in terms of people starting to talk about it and get their friends down here,’ he said, ‘I think that’s where the popularity grows.’
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »