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In an agreement between the Cambridge License Commission and Harvard two weeks ago, Loker Commons was closed to the general public. Though we are disappointed that the University did not make this decision earlier, we support the current move, which came as a result of pressure from community businesses. Loker's lack of a restaurant license means that it doesn't pay taxes to the city of Cambridge, and eateries in Harvard Square felt that a double standard was being applied. As Gary Stolloff of BeBop Burrito asked, "If it looks like a restaurant, why should there be a different standard than at other restaurants?"
The closing of Loker Commons to non-Harvard affiliates allows it to serve students, faculty and staff more effectively. The University had a decision to make: pursue a license and turn the Commons into a cash cow, or not do so and make Loker a true student center. It is erroneous for Cambridge businesses to believe that restricting Loker Commons to the Harvard community will significantly help their business. After all, Crimson Cash leaves Harvard Square restaurants unable to compete with essentially free food, and limiting access to Loker Commons will in no way change this fact.
Loker Commons is intended to provide a comfortable place for members of the Harvard community, not citizens of Cambridge, to socialize. It should be a student center with occasional performances and other forms of entertainment; but, most importantly, it should provide a low-key meeting place where people can talk or study while simultaneously enjoying a tasty snack or, soon, an ice-cold Coke. For it to accomplish this end, though, Loker Commons cannot service an unlimited number of people. To the extent that residents of Cambridge and students at Rindge and Latin cause Loker Commons to become more crowded, noisy and frenetic, the environment becomes less conducive to studying and informal gathering by students.
Hopefully, restricting access to Loker Commons will provide a relaxing place for members of the Harvard community to meet. Depriving people of the right to eat at Loker Commons is not a cruel action on the part of the University. It does not deprive them of the right to eat good food at reasonable prices. Many restaurants in the Square offer comparable food, but none can serve as a social spot for the Harvard community in the way Loker Commons can.
While we support this restriction of access to Loker Commons, we strongly emphasize that Harvard needs to find a means to ensure that its alums can be served there as well. The experience of Rod Kessler '71, who had to argue strenuously before he was permitted to purchase pizza and candy, is unfortunate. If Harvard can find an effective way to limit Loker Commons to members of the Harvard community, including alums, it will be a positive step toward making Loker Commons into a true social center.
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