Chips and Candy Are No Meal

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Published October 20, 2020
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The Montclarion
While the almost iconic red Cafe Diem sign remains lit, the once bustling hangout spot next to Sprague Library now lies dark and empty inside. Corey Annan | The Montclarion

The last thing that anyone expected to see next to Sprague Library is an empty Cafe Diem. The neon-red cursive sign is still there, as is the building itself.

However, it would not take long for someone to notice the obvious change. There are no baked goods within a case waiting to be purchased. The smell of coffee is all but a faint memory from semesters past. There are students, albeit few.

Cafe Diem, or as it is known by its former occupant, Au Bon Pain, is not a cafe as much as it is a new place to host Zoom calls. The decor of the former occupant is a ghost of its former self. The only food it serves now comes via vending machines.

The cafe is a casualty in the budgetary cuts of the university in a post-coronavirus (COVID-19) world. Other victims, like the Red Hawk Diner, for example are closed. Only thing is, their shutdown is just a temporary inconvenience. Cafe Diem’s demise is permanent.

With Panera Bread on the way to College Hall, it is a natural assumption that the once-popular cafe would lose its common patrons. But slashing a food place without a send off, without anything as much as a warning to the student body is a whole other thing.

When another Montclair favorite, Which Wich, had been slashed in Blanton Hall, it was given a farewell by the students who had grown fond of it. The wall of Sharpie doodles had remained until the very end. Yet with Cafe Diem, there were no announcements made beyond the notice on the door and its removal from the dining hall schedules. The Au Bon Pain paper bags and cups were retrofitted at Sam’s Place in August, as if Cafe Diem was nothing but a dream.

Katlyn Pruitt | The Montclarion

Katlyn Pruitt | The Montclarion

The question now is not what will happen next, but will this space remain unoccupied. As the frigid winds of Montclair barrel down the pathways, it is up in the air whether or not we can see more indoor events.

It would make sense to add a place like Cafe Diem to a list of places that can host indoor events, or perhaps as a study lounge. After all, there are plenty of places for students to study. In fact, there is a whole page on the Montclair website dedicated to quiet places for students to utilize. However, the options for a hot beverage or even a meal in between classes becomes slim-to-none. A vending machine cannot give a student a sandwich and soup, or at least the satisfaction that either meal option would.

Sure, there is always going to be Dunkin’, the cafeterias and the food court in the Student Center, as well as the numerous vending machines that are scattered across campus, but not everyone has the luxury of walking to those places in between classes.

Whether or not the space will be occupied will depend on safety protocols put into place by the government and the school, but there is a certain sadness one feels when cruising by the emptied space in the evenings, mixed in with the cherry-red sign and the darkened windows.

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