As school starts up again, returning students exploring the east side of campus may notice the disappearance of a dining option. The building that once housed Fireside Cafe is under renovation and repurposing. The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is leasing the building for the next three years, and dining accommodations will not be offered during this time.
“Taking a venue away from folks was not an easy choice,” said David Weaver, director of Housing, Dining and Conference Services.
ANSEP representatives could not be reached for comment.
Weaver said Fireside’s waning demand for food and beverages and its proximity to Kaladi Brothers Coffee, the most popular cafe on campus, were among a few motivating factors for its closure.
During the leasing period, UAA Housing and Dining Services will save revenue in order to restore the building’s dining purposes. However, the details regarding what kind of dining experience will be offered is not yet known, and will largely be determined based on surveyed responses.
“This is a short-term closure with a strategic plan of opening … and (offering) something phenomenal,” Weaver said. “We are going to organize … a series of open forums — on what students want, what faculty want, when they want it, where they want it — over the next year.”
In the meantime, dining on the east side of campus will be soon supplemented by the public opening of the Varsity Sports Grill in the Alaska Airlines Center. Weaver said the bistro-style restaurant was planned independently of Fireside’s closure.
Students with meal plans will enjoy conveniences similar to what Fireside offered in the new grill as well.
“The Housing folks, we have also decided to offer dining dollars in the restaurant, associated with (students’) meal plans,” said Scott Evers, Seawolf Dining and Catering general manager.
Weaver said the location will “focus on local food, Alaskan seafood” and is scheduled to open publicly starting Oct 1.
In the long-term, Evers said Seawolf Dining is in the process of planning other dining locations in potential areas such as the upcoming Engineering and Industry Building and the Bragaw Office Building.