Panda Express Proposal Rejected a Second Time

The ASUC Plans to Put The Currently Vacant Space Up for an Open Bidding Process in June

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The ASUC Store Operations Board rejected a second lease agreement with Panda Express and discussed lease negotiations with three Bear's Lair Food Court vendors in its last meeting of the fiscal year Tuesday night.

The 6-3 vote on the Panda Express contract followed a similar decision last month, when the board voted down an earlier agreement but opted to continue negotiations with the chain.

The board voted instead to pursue an open bid process starting June 30 for a vacant spot formerly occupied by STA Travel as well as any other spaces that may open in coming months. The STA Travel space was previously slated to be occupied by Panda Express.

About 30 students attended the meeting to voice their opposition to a deal with Panda Express, saying it would not be sustainable.

"I'm so excited they made the right decision," said senior Jessie Booth. "Putting a Band-aid like Panda Express is not a financially sustainable way of addressing our problems."

But some ASUC officials disagreed with the board's decision, saying it leaves the student government in a situation of financial uncertainty similar to when it faced bankruptcy in 1998.

"The test is going to be whether the ASUC fails as an organization," said Student Action Senator Tara Raffi. "If we had financial sustainable businesses, we would be able to give (student groups) money."

Students at the meeting said a student-run cooperative restaurant would be an ideal alternative. The co-op recently received more than $100,000 in campus and private donations.

"We are getting support left and right," said Berkeley Student Food Cooperative leader Alli Reed.

Board members said the vote was intended to be a final decision, but some future board members said there could still be a possibility of exploring a deal with the business next year.

"I'd be open to it," said Tu Tran, a current Student Action senator who will serve on the board next year as ASUC Executive Vice President. "(But) everybody is anticipating a change in political ideology and I don't know if that's what they are going to see."

In the meeting, it was also determined that three Bear's Lair Food Court vendors would wait longer to examine new lease agreements for their spaces. If they reject the terms, their spaces will go up for a public bidding process.

The board also agreed Tuesday night to forgive $14,244.50 in past deferred rent payment from The Daily Californian. For more information, see today's Editor's Note.

The Bear's Lair businesses, which are operating on month-to-month leases, were set to go straight into a bidding process for their spaces earlier this year, which many students feared would force the vendors out of their spaces.

But while the board was in closed session discussing new lease terms for the vendors, supporters of the vendors said double standards were being applied to the small businesses.

Because a Panda Express official was granted access to a closed session of the board, owners of The Coffee Spot, Healthy Heavenly Foods and Taqueria El Tacontento said they should have the same chance to make their case.

"There should be more transparency," said Taqueria El Tacontento owner Arnoldo Marquez. "What's the issue?"

Tags: PANDA EXPRESS, ASUC STORE OPERATIONS BOARD, BEAR'S LAIR BUSINESSES


Zach E.J. Williams covers student government. Contact him at [email protected]



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