Take the Spar, for example, which has decided not to open yet. The campus supermarket stocks a wide range of products, so opening too early will result in too much food waste, explains Erwin Binnenveld from Spar University. “If individual businesses want to open, we don’t mind losing a bit of revenue. But because of the low numbers of students currently on campus, we will end up throwing more food away than making a profit. We want to prevent food waste, so we will stay closed until the start of the new academic year in September.”
That decision to wait also comes from the realisation that other businesses on campus would suffer even more if the Spar were to open. Binnenveld explains: “In particular, the businesses in the foodcourt will benefit if we stay closed for a bit longer. The customers who now visit the foodcourt because we aren’t open might just make the difference for a slightly smaller company, while we would just make big losses and need to throw food away.”
Hopeful for September
The restaurants in the foodcourt are not nearly back to pre-pandemic levels but are hopeful about the period after the summer. Marc van Hooijdonk says that his Tostiworld is now operating at about 50 percent of the turnover before coronavirus. Despite some of the students returning, the absence of staff is notable. “When fewer people need to work from home, I think customer numbers will rise again. Now that the measures are being relaxed, things are looking up, but we still can’t manage without schemes like the NOW. We are also glad that the university is helping with a discount on the rent.” According to Van Hooijdonk, the first three months of the year are the most important for the campus businesses, so he hopes that enough students and staff will be able to come to the campus in the new academic year.
That hope is shared by Fikret Egemen from the HAS. “I hope that we’ll be back to 70 or 80 percent of our normal turnover in September, because we are now only seeing one third of the students. Things are slightly better now than in recent months, but it’s not easy. At the moment, we pay A location rent without the A location business.” He hopes that upcoming talks with the university will result in an offer of help. “I’d like to see the university do something. My motto is that we move on together, but in recent months, being together felt very alone. Over the past five years, we’ve created something really good with the university, and it would be nice to continue developing that in the future.”
Heart of the campus
Campus pub In de Smitse can’t wait until events are allowed, including Eurekaweek. Students are keen to have parties again, says president Sem Sint Nicolaas. Thanks to the pandemic, the pub was able to do some necessary maintenance ‘so that people can dance on the bar again’, but it still feels a shame that there is less of a connection with new students. “Entire groups of first years have barely heard of the Smitse, but we hope to serve them in the coming year.” It looks as if Eurekaweek will probably be able to go ahead without restrictions, so initial preparations are underway at the Smitse. “Being able to party with three hundred customers, offer a venue to societies or events, and have a good time like we used to. We’re really looking forward to it. In many ways, we are the heart of the campus. When we get busier, that will be a good indicator that the university is opening up too.”
Hairdresser Lydia in the Polak building has definitely felt a change in the atmosphere. When hairdressers reopened in March, there was a huge backlog to clear. “I spent four weeks working sixty-hour weeks, but it was impossible to clear that backlog.” She is still down a quarter of her normal turnover this quarter, but she is very positive about how she managed to catch up. “There are lots more students on campus and my regular clients can come and see me. I think people will be very happy once we don’t need to wear facemasks. It doesn’t make it easy to cut hair. I still wear one, even though I’ve been fully vaccinated. Things are going very well, but I’m really looking forward to a new group of students arriving and getting back into the swing of things.”