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The Barker Center’s Rotunda Cafe will reopen next week following a multi-month renovation, and will now feature catering by Cambridge-based Hi-Rise Bread Company and drinks from Counter Culture Coffee.
The cafe’s opening marks the implementation of a long-delayed plan to make the location a point of intersection for arts and humanities on campus. It will play host to special events including advance screenings of films from Sony Pictures, musical performances, student arts exhibitions, and other programming designed to allow members of the Harvard community to share ideas and engage in creative conversation, according to Diana Sorensen, dean of the Arts and Humanities Division.
“We wanted to create a space that feels a little bohemian, a little clubby, where you would feel comfortable talking with your friends about something that interests you,” Sorensen said.
She added that Harvard will subsidize the cost of Hi-Rise’s sandwiches and other baked goods to make the cafe more accessible. AS for coffee, in addition to gourmet coffee selections provided by Counter Culture, the cafe will also provide cheaper coffee offerings starting at $2 a cup. As in the past, Board Plus will be a payment option.
Despite the presence of outside vendors, Harvard University Dining Services will continue to run the cafe, in order to keep the existing infrastructure and staffing. All baristas at the cafe will be Harvard students.
“They have all been taken to Counter Culture Coffee to be trained as baristas,” said Maureen Foley, special projects manager in the Arts and Humanities Division.
The interior of the cafe has also been renovated, and will feature leather sofas and restored flooring, as well as a speaker system that will pipe in carefully crafted Spotify playlists, Foley said. The cafe is also planning to use compostable utensils to reduce its environmental footprint.
According to Foley, the renovation furthers the objectives laid out by the Humanities Project, an 18-month collaboration of Harvard faculty that analyzed trends in the liberal arts over the past several decades in order to offer solutions to enrich and expand the community of humanities disciplines at Harvard.
“This really grew out of the Humanities Project, to create a community where people could informally meet,” Foley said. “The space is an effort to create that kind of environment.”
Sorensen and others will host a grand opening for the cafe on Oct. 22. The dean noted that the renovation and subsidy of foodstuffs was made possible by gifts from Hong Kong heir Adrian C. Cheng ’02 and the family of James F. Rothenberg ’68, a member of the Harvard Corporation, the University's highest governing body, and a prolific supporter of the arts and humanities at the University.
It is not uncommon for local food stores to supply Harvard-run on-campus cafes with food. HUDS has operated the Barker Center’s cafe since the previous operator, C’est Bon, closed all of its on-campus locations in 2001. Since then, all food at the cafe was supplied by Harvard.
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