Hanging in limbo since January, the much loved Arbor room finally switched hands on June 30th. Despite the February protests and petition launched by SAC, the Association of Part Time Students, and CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) the Hart House Board of Stewards went ahead with their decision to change food service providers.
On Aug. 9, Hart House Warden Margaret Hancock announced that the 51-year-old establishment would be replaced by Sammy’s Student Exchange, run by Sammy Salhia. Being in the restaurant business for over 30 years and presently operating both a fast food style deli and restaurant, Hancock is confident about Sammy’s restaurant know how. Along with his daughter Sabrina, Sammy intends to improve and enhance “the character and nutritional value” of fast food options previously served in the Hart House cafeteria.
Hancock maintained that SAC’s campaign against Hart House was “misinformed,” and that the student body had been legitimately represented in the ultimate decision. Allan Varlacki, Secretary of the House Committee on Governance and Policy Matters at Hart House, adds that of the various committees, students make up the largest proportion on the board.
In terms of the 10 union jobs lost in the transfer, Hancock is adamant that the union workers will retain their salary and benefits and that job relocation is an ongoing process which the Board remains both obligated and committed to. She is also confident that Sammy’s “family run” exchange will bring with it a wonderful attitude. Hancock is unaware if Sammy intends to raise prices, but reaffirms that Sammy’s services have been selected because they coincide with Hart House’s interest to provide fresh, healthy and reasonably priced food for the students.
Sammy’s will continue to offer lounge space, big screen TV programming, Jazz @ the Oscars, Spoken Word, art exhibitions and live entertainment. Aside from hosting open Mic, world music and pub nights, Sabrina also intends to invite “local breweries and wineries to showcase their products” such as wine and cheese to prospective clientele.
Despite the opposition launched against Sammy’s, Salhia is not at all hesitant about accepting the offer to run the campus facility and is confident that his menu will be catered precisely to the needs of the students. The newly renovated cafeteria will now offer Sammy’s minute-made shawarmas, hot plate meals, homemade pizzas, open faced sandwich melts, paninis, a gourmet salad bar, fresh smoothies and espressos. Vegan offerings will go beyond the requisite veggie burger, and daily specials will include multinational foods to cater to the diverse student body.