After being forced to remain closed for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wellesley’s Café Hoop has been the first student-led co-op to reopen, followed shortly by El Table.
Established in 1981, Café Hoop is a student-run cooperative on campus serving as a late-night space for Wellesley students to spend time with their peers over good food and music. Tarini Sinha ’22, Hoop’s co-general manager, described the space as a strong social community.
“We just want people to feel safe and comfortable and to have a good time — late at night,” Sinha said.
While describing the philosophy of Hoop, Jasper Saco ’22, Hoop’s external food manager, also emphasized the need for Hoop to serve as a supportive space for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“[Hoop] has become a safe space particularly for people of color who are queer and/or trans. It’s really become a home for a lot of people,” Saco said.
However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced Hoop to shut down for almost two years. Sinha described two main barriers that prevented Hoop from running during the COVID pandemic. One of them was the set of risks that the spread of COVID-19 posed to the health of the College community.
“The College decided that it was not safe COVID wise to reopen last Fall. [And] finding a way that we could feasibly be open and protect everybody’s health [was challenging],” Sinha said.
The other barrier described by Sinha was a series of financial challenges faced by Hoop due to several COVID restrictions. Sinha mentioned that a few months into the pandemic, Hoop worked around financial and health restrictions and presented the College with several proposals to reopen. However, they were constantly turned down.
“Our finances changed significantly as a result of the pandemic. We found ourselves in need of more funding than we have needed historically. We [also] found ourselves caught in the cycle of spending money in preparation for reopening and then being told that we couldn’t reopen,” Sinha said.
However, after months of work from students, Hoop was finally given permission to reopen and resume their operations.
“We have been trying to reopen since Fall 2020, so this has been a long time coming for us,” Sinha said.
In reference to the reopening process, Saco explained that the response of the College community has been very positive.
“The student body has shown us a lot of love and care. And a lot of appreciation. When you walk into [Hoop], you just feel all your troubles melt away. It is magical,” Saco said.
However, Sinha and Saco also described the reopening process to be challenging at times. Sinha explained that Hoop is currently operating on a takeout model, which Hoop’s staff is still navigating.
“We’ve been ironing out some of the kinks with [the takeout model], in terms of how long it takes us to make things and write down orders and notify people when their orders are ready,” Sinha said.
Saco echoed this sentiment by explaining how overwhelming the process can get at times.
“Our first day was really hectic — we had 30 orders in five minutes, which is really great but very overwhelming,” Saco said.
However, Sinha and Saco both explained that the patience and support from the community has kept them going. Saco and Sinha described that the members of Hoop are very excited for Hoop’s reopening, and they are looking forward to seeing things progress.
“We have worked super, super hard. And we really just want to share that with the community,” Sinha said.