Four months after its closing on May 5, the space that Sadie’s, the former student-run cafe, once occupied on the second floor of the Shatner Building remains vacant. With limited room in the Shatner Building as a whole, this space would be a valuable asset for many other student groups and societies.
Sadie’s had a history of financial issues. From its launch in 2013, it ran a consistent deficit throughout its operation. In Winter 2015, the SSMU Finance committee brought Sadies’—then called the Student-Run Cafe—deficit of over $100,000 to the Legislative Council’s attention, and ultimately opted to give the cafe a year to restructure its business plan and increase its revenue.
Although Sadie’s ended 2016 with a deficit that was $20,000 less than the Finance committee anticipated, it still wasn’t enough to keep the operation afloat. As a result, the cafe was shut down, with the staff only receiving three weeks notice of the closure.
“[Sadie’s’ closure] was quite surprising because we had received our contracts to sign and return to the SSMU HR department for the 2017-2018 year until April,” former Sadie’s employee Alex Arkilanian, U3 Science, said. “We had been hearing from both Simona [Trunzo], the manager at Sadie’s, and [former SSMU Vice-President (VP) Operations] Sacha [Magder] that Sadie’s was doing well and better than it had in the past. Contracts for catering were on the rise and we were working on developing relationships with clubs through that and other departments inside McGill to cater to.”
SSMU assured former Sadie’s staff that it would help them find employment in other departments. However, former Sadie’s assistant manager Madison Lowe spoke of the difficulties in finding replacement jobs within SSMU.
“No one actually came forth to me saying here’s the new position, we had to seek it out ourselves,” Lowe said. “I kind of took it upon myself to figure it out if anyone who worked at Sadie’s would want to work at Gerts so we could give them that opportunity.”
According to SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, space in the Shatner Building is allocated based on the needs of the student population.
"[We would prefer an outside cafe] that is price-friendly and offers a variety of food choices [to take the space],” Tojiboeva said. “For now, however, the space is being used for SSMU’s catering services and from time to time as an events space, although we are still looking into all the different options, and still have lots of consultations to do.”
SSMU VP Finance Arisha Khan also confirmed that the SSMU executive is looking for replacements to fill the empty space.
“Although there are no plans at the moment, obviously any low cost, student-friendly eatery would be ideal,” Khan said. “We have our hands tied, as our lease from the University states that no sublease can extend beyond the end date, currently 2021. Most reliable options are not willing to sign such a short lease, which is why we are limited in choice.”
Khan feels that Tim Hortons would be an ideal client, but doubts it would agree to such a lease. Unlike Sadie’s staff, executives of Midnight Kitchen, a free student-run kitchen that serves lunch daily, were notified in advance of Sadie’s closure as they were offered the space that previously was occupied by Sadie’s, but declined the opportunity to change location.
The Sadie’s space will remain unoccupied for the time being, until the SSMU executive finds a new operation. Lowe continues to grieve its absence.
“I want Sadie’s to be back there and I think that it’s a huge disappointment that it’s closed,” Lowe said. “I think a lot of people are extremely surprised with the abrupt decision to just shut down an establishment like that [….] It was such a positive thing to have on the second floor so I would love to see something like that.”