Panda Express Begins Contract Talks to Open Campus Branch

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Moving forward with plans to bring Panda Express to UC Berkeley, representatives of both parties have officially agreed to begin contract negotiations.

Panda Express and campus officials signed a letter of intent Wednesday that sets the principles and terms the parties will use as the basis for negotiating a contract, said Nadesan Permaul, director of the ASUC Auxiliary. The contract will allow the restaurant to open shop on Lower Sproul Plaza, Permaul said.

The letter also allows the restaurant to hire an architect to draw construction plans for the campus to review, he said.

"In general, we were satisfied with the terms and conditions of the letter of intent and feel that it's advantageous for both the student body and the ASUC," said Jordan Smith, chair of the ASUC Store Operations Board, the campus body charged with reviewing and approving business contracts for the ASUC.

The Panda Express branch is expected to open by the beginning of the 2009 academic year in the space near Gelateria Naia that was previously occupied by STA Travel, Permaul said.

Still, some students continue to voice disapproval of a contract with the chain.

"I don't think it's reflecting the values of Berkeley," said cooperative movement senator Christina Oatfield, who has led efforts opposing the restaurant's presence on Lower Sproul Plaza.

But Permaul said Panda Express officials have indicated they will invest more than $500,000 into the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, as well as provide internship opportunities to students and working wages to employees.

Since a contract has not yet been signed, the letter's terms remain confidential, but Permaul said negotiators from the two parties will begin determining the terms of the contract "sooner rather than later."

The ASUC has also been in discussions with Tully's Coffee and Kaplan, Inc. to come to campus.

Despite her dissatisfaction, Oatfield said she hopes the campus will strive to make the branch green.

"There are some opportunities for putting some measures into the contract that will make Panda Express at UC Berkeley more environmentally sustainable than your average Panda Express in a shopping mall," she said.


Contact Angelica Dongallo at [email protected]

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