Paces Cafe, which has been closed since the end of the fall 2016 semester due to an auditing process conducted by the Business Office to investigate Paces’ business practices, is expecting to reopen after spring break as a member of the OneCard Program.
According to Raffaella Luzi Stoutland ’17, the Head Director of Paces, this audit has been ongoing throughout the spring semester and will be completed by Feb. 27.
“[The audit is due to] issues the Business Office had with the handling of cash at Paces, with bookkeeping practices, and with receipt tracking. … [Paces] is basically undergoing some investigations into the practices currently, but more importantly, putting in processes that we can follow in the future,” Stoutland said.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Gregory Brown confirmed Wednesday, Feb. 15 that Paces is now currently on the right track of reopening.
“We had a very productive meeting [Monday] afternoon with the Paces leadership team, and I believe we’re on a good path to a successful re-opening of Paces later this semester,” said Brown.
The Paces staff has been working with the college administration since the end of last semester to work out the trajectory of the cafe. Stoutland met with Brown this Tuesday, and discussed future plans as well as the relation of the cafe to the Visioning Process Report of the college.
The report, released this month, asserts that “strategies will be implemented through capital planning projects” to help “inspire students to pursue their passions and provide support their efforts to achieve a reasonable equilibrium between academic and co-curricular pursuits.”
Stoutland elaborated on Paces’ plan of reopening after spring break.
“We’re looking at a tentative opening after spring break. We are reworking our financial and accounting procedures and we are hoping to set up some long term plans that integrate Paces into the Visioning Process of Swarthmore,” Stoutland said.
Part of these new financial procedures is the authorization of the use of OneCard at the cafe. To become part of the newly incorporated OneCard program this year, businesses must meet specific financial standards in order to be a part.
“Paces asked to join the program, and as a result of their request, we are completing a review of their business practices. During the course of the review, we identified several areas of concern regarding the need to improve their business practices, and we are working with Paces to resolve the open issues,” said the Director of Auxiliary Services, Anthony Coschignano.
According to Coschignano, any merchant looking to join the program must undergo a successful review process, and agree to specific record-keeping and data security standards.
In order to meet these standards, Stoutland and the Paces leadership have been working with the OneCard office and administration to present business plans and financial projections. After a semester of screening, Paces will be accepting SwatPoints on OneCard in the near future.
“It looks like the only way we would open will be on OneCard without taking out any cash or credit … should we open after spring break, it will be on OneCard, and in the future, Paces will probably be accepting OneCard,” Stoutland said.
According to Stoutland, the administration has been supportive in the audit and the OneCard authorization, though sometimes effective communication has been lacking.
“It looks like Paces though should probably have more direction coming from dining services and OneCard and coming from the business office. So it’s not that we haven’t had support, I just think that the way that the support has been structured hasn’t always been the most productive … Mostly it’s just been miscommunications and circumvent[ive] communications … so the support is there, but it just really wasn’t reaching us,” said Stoutland.
As a member of the 2016 orientation committee, Luke Barbano ’18 suggested that students would want Paces to be on OneCard during their OneCard briefing, and he was surprised with the administration’s perplexing astonishment. As a frequenter of Paces, he also witnessed the tedious process that Paces had to go through to get the authorization.
“The OneCard office has made Paces go in order to demonstrate its viability as a profitable enterprise (i.e. requesting seemingly endless revisions of business plans, countless budget proposals, profit projections that were nearly impossible to make, etc.) It seemed like an unnecessary number of hoops to jump through given Paces’s seemingly low stakes (it’s not a multinational corporation) and the ease with which OneCard capabilities can be granted (I’m sure there’s some bureaucratic administrative red tape to deal with but it’s not rocket science),” wrote Barbano in his email.
Although Paces is an on-campus organization, its position on the OneCard will be with SwatPoints, the Points that are used in the Ville, rather than regular Points which are used at other on-campus dining options. This structural difference is because Paces is run by students rather than the college’s dining services.
“We are kinda in this weird limbo place where we are clearly part of the Swarthmore College [community], … but they’re sort of treating us like an outside partner of Swarthmore College,” Stoutland said.
Stoutland further explained Paces’ awkward position as a student-run business on campus and how that aspect has impacted on its OneCard authorization.
“We’re student-run, and in that sense, we aren’t part of the dining services, so we wouldn’t be part of the Points and meal points. We’ll be part of the new part of OneCard, but we’re also not exactly an established business, so there’s a lot of checks and balances they wanted us to go through that I don’t think the other businesses went through,” Stoutland said.
Despite the long process of authorizing it, Stoutland believes that the OneCard is a good addition because it makes the business more accessible.
“[We] struggle to keep prices as low as possible, and much lower than they would’ve been in the normal market, because we really want people to have access to Paces, and OneCard is really the solution that no matter what someone’s personal finances are, they can still experience the space where all students should be experiencing, and the food is really good,” Stoutland said.
When asked about Paces’ next step, Stoutland was very optimistic and said the biggest focus for Paces’ right now was to reopen as soon as possible.
“We’re looking at what accounting practices we’re putting in place […] in terms of where we get our food and where we get our supplies, also sustainability practices, a lot of our stuff is compostable so we’re just double-checking that everything can be composted. Our main goal is to reopen as soon as possible this semester, like I said, soon still means probably weeks so, and then to figure out what it means for Paces to be open in the long term as well,” said Stoutland.
Luke Barbano believes that OneCard is also going to help Paces compete with other restaurants and cafes on campus and in the Ville with the growing competition with other restaurants and cafes on campus and in the Ville, since most of them already have OneCard.
“One only needs to look to the Ville merchants to see how OneCard has dramatically increased their business traffic. […] Given the student body’s widespread enthusiasm for Paces, the nearly excessive number of Points that accompany any of the currently offered meal plan options, the cafe’s convenience, and its charming novelty, it’s reasonable to expect that Paces would experience a similar boost in business. They will make a lot of money,” Barbano said.
After a nearly clear path to reopening, managers at Paces and some students see the cafe as a viable place of business and one for students to enjoy on campus given that the OneCard becomes a part of the cafe’s program.