Late-night dining reopens at Courtyard Cafe on weekends
After late-night dining was largely shut down during the pandemic, the reimplementation of late-night is part of Dartmouth Dining’s efforts to increase dining hours and provide more social spaces on campus.
On Nov. 4, Dartmouth Dining Services reopened late night dining at the Courtyard Cafe on Friday and Saturday until midnight — which they had “historically” done before the pandemic, according to Dartmouth Dining director Jon Plodzik. According to Dartmouth Student Government President David Millman ’23, the change is part of Dartmouth Dining’s efforts to extend dining hours across campus dining locations, accommodate students with irregular schedules and provide a secondary social space to Greek houses.
Reopening late-night dining has been one of DSG’s priorities, Millman said. He added that DSG collaborated with the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault to advocate for the return of weekend late-night dining to Dartmouth Dining.
Before the start of the pandemic, Collis Cafe was open for late-night dining, which ran until 2 a.m. However, the option was shut down as part of a general decrease in available dining programs in 2020, according to Plodzik. Prior to the reopening of late-night dining, the Courtyard Cafe was open until 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
SPCSA executive Madeline Gochee ’23 said that late-night dining, as it existed before the pandemic, gave students an opportunity to leave the “Webster bubble.”
“It just kind of felt like a social scene. You would run into people a lot of the time,” Gochee said. “It was always a place that was on people’s minds on an on night.”
Gochee added that she and Millman were worried that the Class of 2023 would be the last class to experience late-night dining. They wanted to leave a late-night dining option for current and future students as their “legacy,” she said.
“Students do need dining options just in terms of food security and accessibility — but it’s [also] a community issue and a public health issue,” Millman said. “We want to get people out of fraternity basements and into well-lit spaces with food, water and [to] have a place to gather with friends.”
Gochee said that there were important implications of bringing back weekend late night dining for reducing gender-based violence on campus, such as by providing individuals in high-risk scenarios with a “viable alternative.”
“I think it’s really important for people to be able to use [late night dining] as an excuse to exit situations where they feel unsafe,” she said.
Plodzik said that Dartmouth Dining wanted to reopen late night dining for similar reasons. He added that Dartmouth Dining and DSG are working on extending dining hours at the Class of 1953 Commons in the winter, bringing back an option that Dartmouth Dining has offered during past summer terms and during the pandemic. Dartmouth Dining senior manager for operational excellence Deborah Scanlon said that Dartmouth Dining could host karaoke nights and open-mic nights if late-night at ’53 Commons becomes available.
“[’53 Commons] lends itself to programming in the evening when you can have events while we’re doing late night,” Plodzik said. “[It gives] people an option to do something besides going to the fraternities and the sororities.”
The main obstacle to extending dining hours has been getting adequate staffing in light of the national labor shortage, Plodzik said. Problems with getting staff to work during late-night shifts is compounded by the few potential new workers in the area due to Dartmouth’s remote location in the Upper Valley, Scanlon said.
“We’ve been trying to build back the team,” Plodzik said. “We continue to struggle with staffing as a whole, particularly on evenings and weekends. That challenge made it very difficult for us to even think about operating a late night program.”
Dartmouth Dining is working with a marketing firm to recruit more employees, according to Plodzik. In the past, Dartmouth Dining has attempted to recruit new workers through job fairs, lawn signs and TV and radio advertisements, but have found the most success reaching workers through social media. Despite these efforts, Dartmouth Dining still has about five or six full-time openings for late-night dining, Plodzik said.
Despite these challenges, Dartmouth Dining is in favor of continuing to extend hours at ’53 Commons, Plodzik said.
“I really think it’s gonna happen,” Plodzik said. “I’m confident that by the time we get to the holidays that we’ll have enough core crew to [be] open at least some period of the week. At least sometime in the month of January, we will be open for late-night [at ’53 Commons].”
Even opening late night at the Courtyard Cafe is an important step in the right direction, Emma Ginsberg ’23 and Javier Paulino ’26 said. Both said that they have found it difficult to find food options because of their schedules. Paulino, who works at the Hanover Inn until 9 p.m. on some nights, said he often has to skip dinner.
Ginsberg, who just starred in the theater department’s production of “Pippin” at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, said that the opening of the Courtyard Cafe for late night is a “public health measure.”
“I have a lot less anxiety that I’m not going to get food now because I know that when I get out of a late-night rehearsal, that there will be something [open],” Ginsberg said. “When [’53 Commons] was the only option, if something happened and I didn’t have time to run before rehearsal, I was always worried, ‘Oh no, I’m just not going to get dinner.’”