With recent findings indicating that key GWorld partners have lost significant revenue this year following the implementation of mandatory J Street spending, we are concerned that this ill-conceived policy change is destroying valuable partnerships in Foggy Bottom.
Notable campus staples such as Froggy Bottom Pub, Panda Cafe, Pita Pit, Au Bon Pain and Berticci’s note losses up to 50 percent of previous revenues this year. Locations such as Froggy Bottom Pub generally bring in one-third of their revenue from students’ pocketbooks. Freshman and sophomore students are required to spend $700 and $250, respectively, of their Colonial Cash at J Street in this first year of mandatory spending. Because of this policy, outside businesses claim that the University is effectively protecting Sodexho from free competition.
The University offers other explanations for these losses, claiming that the expansion of the GWorld program to include Safeway as well as a smaller incoming class have contributed to these issues. However, taking into consideration the vocal and prominent complaints from students, the news of this policy hurting local restaurants brings an entire new dimension to the problem that is doing anything but building community.
While it is possible that these factors may contribute to revenue reductions, venues closer to J Street seem to be hardest hit. Establishments such as Potbelly’s, Dunkin Donuts-Baskin Robbins and Gallery Place have not seen losses as drastic as those experienced by venues inside 2000 Penn or neighboring venues on the 2100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.
While the University acknowledges that local GWorld partners have suffered financial setbacks since mandatory spending was implemented this year, officials contend that the policy is beneficial to the overall community. “We’re trying to get people early on building a community,” said Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz.
Yet the fact is, this policy is hurting the GW community – both the actual students and the surrounding establishments that also comprise the community GW strives so hard to create. One of the central benefits of the Colonial Cash program is that it allows GW students to experience elements of the GW community, freely both on campus and off. Stifling student spending hinders the freedoms that draw so many to this campus in the first place.
If the current policy is not addressed quickly by top administrators and an alternate plan presented, GW runs the risk of not only leaving students dissatisfied but alienating neighborhood venues as well. Just as the GW experience goes far beyond the classroom and into the city, administrators must be mindful of the impact student spending has on the entire Foggy Bottom community.
As this page has said in the past, both the University and students have valid concerns concerning mandatory spending. The University has a vested interest in its business dealings with food service provider Sodexho while the students want the dining freedom of years past. Now, the way this policy impacts the greater community must have its own place in the discussion of how to resolve this dining disaster once and for all.