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July 9, 2001

Grad Commons nearly completed; Whole Earth Restaurant will move there later this month

By Louise Donahue

The bookstore was scheduled to reopen today (Monday, July 9) in the plaza. MORE
A key element in the Bay Tree Bookstore plaza is about to fall into place: the Graduate Commons, complete with a new, expanded Whole Earth Restaurant.

Whole Earth owner Bob Polaris in the new restaurant
Whole Earth owner Bob Pallares, in the restaurant's new facilities on the ground floor of the nearly completed Grad Student Commons. Photo: Louise Donahue
The Graduate Commons will provide a long-sought base for graduate students on its second floor, while the Whole Earth Restaurant will move from its longtime location next door to the Grad Commons' ground floor.

The Graduate Commons project has been a long time in the making. Since the campus opened in 1965, UCSC's graduate students have been collectively saving for a home of their own. In late 1996, they voted to commit the more than $1 million already saved--and pledge future resources--to build a Graduate Commons in conjunction with the Bay Tree Bookstore expansion. A portion of the restaurant's profits will also support Graduate Student Commons operations.

With office space a problem for many UCSC graduate students, the commons will provide a place where graduate students can check their e-mail, use the phone, conduct review sessions, or just relax between classes. Graduate students can either drop by or reserve rooms, and they will have 24-hour access to the upstairs starting in the fall.

"I think it's going to fill a number of niches," said Katy Flint, chair of the programming and building committee and a graduate student in astronomy. "I think we're going to be able to do some amazing things."

Nathan Sanders, outgoing chair of the Graduate Student Commons Governance Board, also has high hopes for the facility. "The Graduate Student Commons fills many of the roles for graduate students that the college system fills for undergraduates, giving us the opportunity to socialize and build a community in a centralized location."

"Between the influx of graduate students coming to the Graduate Student Commons and the increase in general campus use of the area due to the larger and improved Whole Earth Restaurant and Bay Tree Bookstore, the Core East area is going to be an exciting and important place for the entire campus community," Sanders said.

The upstairs floor of the Grad Student Commons should be open for use in late July or early August. The Whole Earth, meanwhile, is scheduled to open on the ground floor on Monday, July 30; the restaurant will be closed the week of July 23 to set things up.

Hamburgers, grilled chicken, and french fries will be added to the menu, and a coffeehouse area will feature specialty coffee drinks and smoothies. "It's going to be a lot nicer," said Whole Earth owner Bob Pallares. "We're having more space, so we can expand our selection." That will include a greater emphasis on deli foods: salami, pastrami, and more cheeses will be available, for example.

Customers in a hurry will be able to use a walkup window that will open at 7 a.m.--a half hour before the main restaurant--and sell everything from Beckmann's pastries to espresso and ready-made breakfast burritos and sandwiches.

To accommodate graduate students' requests for a pub, the L-shaped restaurant will also include what Pallares called a "pub-like area" with a pool table, a wall-mounted television, and counters along the walls for drinks and food. Beer and wine, including wines produced in the Central Coast area, will be sold.

Pallares said this part of the restaurant will also be large enough to host small art shows, utilizing a flexible track lighting system.

The old Whole Earth served 800 to 1,000 customers a day during busy times, a number Pallares expects to climb at the new site. "I think we're going to be busier than we've ever been."

Pallares said he is trying to reach out to diners with different tastes, adding more inexpensive meals and expanding the selection of desserts. To compete with area coffee bars Pallares bought an "Italian-made, top-of-the-line espresso machine" and will have a coffee "brew bar."

The new facility has seating for 90 inside, and room for about 20 at tables outside, compared with space for 50 to 60 at the original site. Oversized windows to the outdoor seating area can be opened or closed garage-door-style, depending on the weather.

In the fall, the restaurant will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, with the coffee shop opening at 7 and closing at 11 p.m., Pallares said. Weekends have traditionally been slow, and hours for both the coffeehouse and restaurant are tentatively scheduled to be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Shuttle buses will stop in the plaza area, and there will be eight one-hour metered parking spaces. The Advisory Committee on Facilities is reviewing the future use of the buildings vacated by the Whole Earth and the bookstore.

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