UCSD students must consign Che Cafe to history
by MARTIN JONES WESTLIN
Jul 01, 2014 | 1573 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ernesto (Che) Guevara, Argentine Marxist revolutionary who decried capitalism during his medical training, peers out from the facade of his namesake cafe on the UCSD campus.
Ernesto (Che) Guevara, Argentine Marxist revolutionary who decried capitalism during his medical training, peers out from the facade of his namesake cafe on the UCSD campus.
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One of the cool nuances at the Ché Café, the historic and beleaguered art/music/discussion venue whose collective has been evicted as of July 13, is the acronym in the title. “Ché” is not only a nod to Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto (Ché) Guevara, who became disenchanted with capitalist theory while studying to be a doctor; it's an acronym for Cheap, Healthy Eats, and it touted its vegan fare accordingly.

I'd visited the place a couple times in the days when I reviewed La Jolla Playhouse theater nearby for another publication; the peeling façade and dusty foundation reminded me of the kinds of places I'd hang during my own student days thousand of miles and almost 50 years ago, when we were all firmly convinced that Washington would soon become the target of an armed insurrection. Guevara's cudgel now lay at our feet, and a few sacrificed lives were well worth the effort. On my visits, the Ché's air was clouded with those memories, which are as dusky as the air around the building. Trendy vegan food somehow seemed ironically out of mood.

And that's basically my metaphorical argument in favor of the Ché's closure.

The logistics would clearly indicate that a shutdown's the proper path in any event – the Associated Students of UCSD, which oversees maintenance and programming, faces a repair bill to the tune of $700,000; the cafe had to briefly shut down in 2012 amid defaults on its insurance payments; the venue is reportedly behind in the rent; and above all, the school's student-led advisory board voted in May not to fund the venue during 2014-15. Supporters claim that the university's efforts to take down the Ché is “an orchestrated attack.” The repair figure, they say, is inflated in order to incite support for a shutdown, and they suggest that an on-campus bar has an interest in seeing the Ché close its doors.

But there's a bigger argument at play here than the “he-said, she-said,” nuts-and-bolts discussions that surround differences of opinion. It's true the Ché has hosted some very important music acts, such as Green Day, Nirvana and Jimmy Eat World, and is one of the few all-ages music venues around; it's held art exhibits to the benefit of students who might not otherwise have a venue; and most important, the progressive dialogue of Guevara's era characterized it as an entity unto itself. The Ché is a kind of poor man's Student Union, a center of inclusion for peripheral thought and action among the presumably dispossessed.

Evolution, however, has other ideas, and they're not the sole province of a bogeyman UCSD administration. 1960s radical social and political activist Jerry Rubin, for one, would have made an ideal central figure among the Ché's visitors if the venue had been around (it opened in 1980); his socialist sensibilities gave way to other modes of conduct, and he became a multimillionaire businessman by the end of the 1970s. Eldridge Cleaver, whose book “Soul on Ice” became a staple for violent black activism in the United States, died a Mormon and a conservative Republican. Change, even at its most surprising, is life's sole constant for individuals; so it is too with human institutions.

The Ché, God bless it, served myriad purposes for myriad strains of progressive philosophy and art. But the core age it represents (the one an old hippie like me is eternally grateful to have experienced) must be permitted to take on a life of its own, and you don't do that by forcing its signature venues to outlive their usefulness. The venue's demise is the only appropriate course, lest its role in campus history be stuck in time and space.

Martin Jones Westlin is editor of La Jolla Village News.



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healthycommunity4all
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July 01, 2014
It seems that far more people want to keep the place open than see it shut down. The change.org petition got over 11,500 signatures. https://www.change.org/p/assistant-vice-chancellor-gary-ratcliff-save-the-che-from-closing/u/5375a25d2444e8371e004f4e

It's painfully obvious how out of touch the author is as to this venue, whose main attendees are under 21 and not into Che but do appreciate the rare positive, safe and sober space that hosts a lot of independent music and student programming. This place is very popular and like a book, shouldn't be judged by its cover.

It is being given disparate treatment from the other venues on campus that the administration operates like The Loft and The Gameroom, which are actually losing money and should be closed rather than those like the Che which are fiscally responsible, and are in such high demand.

The decision to terminate the lease is political and all the reasons why have not held up yet.

It was the same thing with the Craft Center in 2012 and they had tons of support and 1 million dollars to keep it open and the University still said no.