By Stephen Gruber-Miller, grubermi@grinnell.edu

Bob’s Underground Café’s management demonstrated its commitment to self-governance by holding an open discussion forum in JRC 101 on Thursday.

Around 25 people showed up to the discussion, mostly students and a few staff members. The forum was presided over by Bob’s Manager Anna Halpin-Healy ’13 and Vice President for Strategic Planning Angela Voos.

Halpin-Healy started the meeting off with a brief overview of the 20-year history of Bob’s, explaining that they had lost between $6,000 and $12,000 each year since they opened. The forum was intended to get student input about what made Bob’s special and what needs to improve to open Bob’s again.

Students brainstorm ideas for Bob’s future. Photo by John Brady

Participants were asked to answer four questions about the café: what they like least about Bob’s, why Bob’s is important to student life, what they love most about Bob’s and what they would change about Bob’s if they could.

Some of the most important issues that emerged from the discussion were the culture of Bob’s, the food quality and range offered, the events offered, and the café’s hours. Many students spoke passionately about how Bob’s is a unique student-run space on campus that offers a creative outlet for students in the form of open mic nights and other events.

Other students were interested in seeing what could be done about the menu to make Bob’s a more practical business, such as offering different foods or more foods, which could prove financially difficult.

There were many suggestions that Bob’s should be open more hours, even simply as a study space. Some suggested that being open before classes would provide students an opportunity to buy coffee in the morning, or that being open later on the weekends would give people a place to go after Harris or other parties had finished.

Halpin-Healy and Voos were very open to ideas and eager to find out which aspects of Bob’s people are most passionate about. They said they want to find ways to draw more people to Bob’s, whether through food, events, or other unique qualities. Above all, they said they are committed to keeping Bob’s around for the student body.

“I think that it was really helpful and a good conversation,” Halpin-Healy said after the forum was finished. She encouraged anyone with ideas to email [bobs], and said she was hoping to include more voices in the conversation.