Class of 1953 Commons re-opens for late-night dining; snack bars no longer accept meal swipes

Students praised the updated late night dining option, which will be open from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., seven days a week.

by Emily Fagell | 1/5/23 5:10am

foco
by Julia Levine / The Dartmouth

Starting Jan. 3, the Class of 1953 Commons opened for late-night dining from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. seven days a week, according to Dartmouth Student Government president David Millman ’23. The Courtyard Cafe — which temporarily opened for weekend late-night dining on Nov. 4 — will reduce its hours, closing at 9:30 p.m. daily to accommodate staffing issues, Dartmouth Dining Services director Jon Plodzik said.

Plodzik said that while ’53 Commons will continue to accept meal swipes during its late-night hours, campus snack bars will no longer accept swipes this winter and may operate under shortened hours due to staff shortages and expanded hours at ’53 Commons.

Millman said that DSG has been advocating for late-night dining since the spring, calling the initiative one of his “biggest priorities.” He explained that the reopening aims to address food security, public health and public safety. Plodzik added that the new dining program will be called “’53 After Dark.”

“It’s not just people getting food when they’re drunk,” Millman said. “[Late night dining also] gives people a place to go. It extends dining times. It’s public safety — you can get people out of crap basements into well-lit places with friends, food and water. It really is a place where people can regroup and check in with their friends.”

The Student & Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault executive Madeline Gochee ’23, whose organization worked with DSG to implement late-night dining, added in an email statement that “late night is paramount to violence prevention” on campus.

“First, it gives students an alternative social space to consume food and get away from high risk drinking spaces,” Gochee wrote. “Second, late night is an important excuse for people to leave spaces where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable without raising alarm bells. Third, late night is important for friends of students who are inebriated to get them out of high risk scenarios.”

According to Plodzik, ’53 Commons will serve many of the “really popular items” from the Courtyard Cafe, including breakfast burritos, popularly known as “bobs,” quesadillas and other grill options. The location will also offer items such as coffee, frozen yogurt, ice cream, pizza, soups and bottled beverages such as Yerba Mate. He said that Wednesdays will feature pancake night — an event previously held only during finals week.

Plodzik added that late-night dining will operate under a retail model, with items priced individually — rather than the typical all-you-can-eat style during other meal hours. 

While Sonya Danchak ’25 said that although she was surprised by the retail model, she added that the decision ultimately makes sense.

“You’re not eating a full meal if it is after 9:00, so I feel like I am fine with it,” she said. “That makes sense because otherwise it would be [a] free-for-all.” 

In addition to changes to snack bars, Plodzik said the Courtyard Café will close at 9:30 p.m. everyday, with only grab-and-go options available after 8:30 p.m. to allow staff time to close. Previously, the café closed at midnight Monday through Saturday and was closed on Sundays; prior to Nov. 4, the café closed at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The new winter schedule primarily stems from the introduction of late-night dining at ’53 Commons, as Dartmouth Dining continues to address staffing constraints, Plodzik said. He added that the adjustments are “very separate” from upcoming renovations to the Hopkins Center for the Arts but noted that the construction may have an impact on “business and flow.”

“It’s a give and take in staffing mostly, to be honest with you, and it’s a consideration of overhead and the bigger picture: Do we need to have multiple venues open all over the place offering similar things at the same time?” Plodzik said. 

Dartmouth Dining was able to offer some staff at the Courtyard Café an opportunity to transfer to ’53 Commons, according to past reporting by The Dartmouth. However, Plodzik said they are still looking to fill two positions at late-night, out of seven open full-time positions overall, and that the lingering staff shortage is “a little concerning.” 

While Dartmouth Dining initially chose the Courtyard Cafe over ’53 Commons for late-night dining due to staffing constraints, Plodzik said that ’53 Commons was eventually selected due to its size and equipment, as it can cook food faster than the Courtyard Cafe.

“We’re estimating that we’d get somewhere around 1,000 to 1,200 students nightly in the program,” Plodzik said. “This allows a lot more elbow room and a lot more production capacity than we would’ve had in other venues, for just about the same amount of staff.” 

Gochee wrote that SPCSA also preferred ’53 Commons due to its proximity to Webster Avenue and student housing. Millman added that the Campus Connect shuttle will now have a stop near ’53 Commons, allowing students to ride from Webster Avenue to the dining location until 2:30 a.m.

“I remember Collis late-night from back in my freshman year,” Ryan McClure ’23 said. “Most ’23s have pretty fond memories of it, but I remember Foco late-night from that [COVID-19] winter when all of us were back, and Foco was a great spot for it too. I’m more about just the fact that there is food being offered [at] that time as opposed to the location.”

While Simon Buchsbaum ’26 said he is “a little bummed that the [Courtyard Cafe] is closing” earlier, he said he is glad that ’53 Commons is extending its hours  and called the initiative “a big step [forward] in student wellness and mental health.”

Like Buchsbaum, other students responded positively to the announcement.

“I think that Foco being open later offers a better opportunity for Dartmouth as a student body to really be together,” Brennan Welsh ’26 said. “I went for when they did the pancakes during finals week and it just seemed like such a great energy. People were having fun, [there was] a little lightheartedness. I ended up actually meeting people there that I hadn’t really met.”

Danchak added that the decision to stay open until 1:30 a.m. is “amazing,” noting that she expects students to utilize the new hours for dinner, not just late-night dining.

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