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Restaurant opens in UC, displaces bar rumor

October 11, 2007

UW-River Falls students and faculty looking for healthy food alternatives can now dine at Roots Café, which recently opened on the lower level of the University Center.

The opening of Roots in the vacant lower level space also could dispel the end of any rumors of an on-campus bar.

Students and faculty who choose to eat at Roots can expect “stick-to-the-ribs”, home-style offerings with an emphasis on healthy food preparation, according to the UWRF Student Affairs Web site.

The concept behind the new restaurant was developed from student and faculty feedback provided by surveys that are handed out at UWRF dining venues every semester. At Riverside Commons, 500 surveys are passed out and another 500 are split up amongst the retail venues.

Another reason behind the introduction of Roots Café is the demise of Zona Mexicana restaurant.

“After last semester, Zona Mexicana did not have the success and student response,” K.T. Tlougan, marketing manager for Chartwells Dining Services, said.

As a result, the unpopular Mexican restaurant was taken out and most of its food options were moved to Trattoria, a station in Riverside Commons, which now boasts a daily taco bar and circulates the over-stuffed burrito option on its 18-day menu.

Roots offers two daily specialty entrées with a side of vegetables, a pay-by-the-ounce salad bar and a designated bread and desert of the week.

Excluding the bread and desert options, some of the items offered by Roots can also be found at Riverside Commons.

“Roots takes some of the healthier options from Riverside Commons,” Tlougan said. “The bread and deserts served are a step up in quality.”

Chartwells is the food service provider for UWRF and many other universities around the country.

Some students find the idea of healthy food alternatives on campus to be a relief from the usual choices.

“Besides the sub place, what alternative do you have?,” UWRF senior Amanda Leuer said. “I guess you could go to the convenience store upstairs.”

Whether it’s the preparation or the taste, certain students like the change.

“It’s not your typical cafeteria food,” commuter and senior Kathryn Lopez said. “It’s delicious.”

In addition the healthier meals, Roots offers seating and an ambiance unique to its location in the University Center.

“The comfortable booths and lounge atmosphere are conducive for studying,” Lopez said.

Roots caters to the lunch crowd and is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

“The initial decision [on the hours of operation] was based on the traffic we’ve experienced at other retail locations,” Tlougan said.

Other reasons behind the limited hours of operation are the targeted audience and menu.

Many of the customers that come in are either commuters or faculty members who are looking for a quick healthy meal and aren’t on campus during the dinner hours Tlogan said.

“Based on our research, we have not seen traffic patterns that show why we should stay opened passed lunch,” He said.

Bar rumor put to rest

The idea of putting a bar in the University Center, likely in the space Roots Café now occupies, was rejected last school year by various UWRF committees within the Facilities and Fees Board, including the Student Health Advisory, University Centers and Residential Living Committees.

“Student Senate originally passed a motion to explore the idea,” current Senate President Derek Brandt said. “It never went any further than that.”

After Senate agreed to explore the idea, the committees ended up discussing it and determined that it would cause too many issues on campus.

“It was determined that an on-campus bar would lead to underage issues and issues surrounding the cost of alcohol,” former Facilities and Fees Board chair Jim Vierling said.

Currently, all alcoholic beverages must be dispensed at a price that complements the established prices in the local community, according to UWRF Administrative Policy 40. There shall be no “open bars,” “happy hours” or other modified prices that discount the price of service to promote the consumption of alcohol, unless special conditions exist as approved by the Chancellor.

People who are under 21 also have the right to go into a building they are helping fund and not be around alcohol, Vierling said.

“It was just better to let 21-year-olds go to the bars on Main Street,” Vierling said. “The majority of people who are 21 live off campus anyway, so we thought a bar wouldn’t make much sense.”

Still, the thought of a place on campus to grab a drink is intriguing to some UWRF students.

“A bar in the University Center would be nice, but there would have to be limitations,” daily commuting student Nick Giles-Lauer said.

“It would be a good social experience for kids that are of age,” Giles-Lauer said. “Instead of just going to class and leaving, it would give you a nice meeting destination.”

Several other universities around the region have destinations in their student centers where alcohol is served, including UW-Madison and the University of Iowa.

“I don’t see why we can’t have one if other universities do,” Lopez said. “I think [Roots] would be a perfect venue.”