Fish Co effect muted at Jo’s

By
Friday, February 23, 2007

JOSIAH’S – Wednesday is College Night at the Fish Company Bar & Grill, and Josiah’s tends to get busy after midnight as revelers stream back. Early Thursday morning, however, Jo’s was still quiet enough for Andrea Perez ’10 to sit alone at a six-person table and quietly figure out her engineering homework.

She said she rarely works in Jo’s at night, but she had been there for two hours already without being bothered by any noisy distractions.

With University officials suggesting that they might close Jo’s and the Gate – the two late-night eateries on campus – earlier than their current 2 a.m. closing time in an effort to curb rowdy, late-night behavior, students and food service workers are unsure of the future of late-night dining. Administrators said Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights are especially problematic, making those late-night shifts difficult to staff.

The scene at Jo’s on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning this week appeared to belie those claims. At midnight, there were about 30 people eating or relaxing at the tables in Jo’s dining room, and no students were visibly intoxicated. It was subdued enough that the television on the far wall playing college basketball highlights on ESPN was audible halfway across the room.

“I like working here, it’s pretty low key,” said Alex Eichler ’08, who said he had been a Jo’s employee for about three weeks. “It might just be that on Wednesday nights, everybody is watching ‘Lost’ or at Fish Co.”

“But I wouldn’t want to work here on Saturday,” he said.

Retail Dining Supervisor Sean Debobes, who said he had worked at Brown for three years, including six months at Jo’s, agreed that the eatery was usually calm. “I’ve seen a number of things, definitely some of the college cross-section,” he said.

Debobes said it has become easier recently to staff late-night shifts, but the slots on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights are still the last to fill up.

University officials have said that the late-night behavioral problems are not limited to Jo’s – workers at the Gate have complained about disorderly students as well.

Debobes said he disagreed with any comparison between the two eateries. “It’s a very different crowd (at Jo’s) than at the Gate. It’s a different world,” he said. “It’s the same students and the same community, but the atmosphere is so different.”

Carlos Reyes, who said he was hired as a retail dining supervisor only a week and a half ago, said he had heard that there could be a few drunken people, especially on Wednesdays, but he said he “hasn’t seen any big disturbances.” When asked about the University officials’ claims of excessive theft, he said the supervisors “try to create a consciousness among students. That’s why I’m here. To me, its embarrassing to have to go tell someone to pay for some stuff.”

By 1:15 a.m., the scene at Jo’s had changed little from earlier in the night. Perez packed her bag as a few groups of seemingly intoxicated students – dressed for clubbing – walked in. There were a few shouting matches across the room, and twice a man challenged someone else to fight, but no fights materialized.

“Yo, blue fleece, you’re (expletive) dead,” one man shouted as he stumbled out of the building.

But despite the occasional commotion, Eichler said most students are polite. “I feel like most people at Brown have worked some crappy food service job at some point, so they’re pretty understanding,” he said.

Jo’s had three supervisors and an officer from the Department of Public Safety on hand on Wednesday.

“I’m sure stuff happens from time to time but I’ve never experienced it, although it’s been a while since I’ve worked here,” said Campus Police Officer James Massey who was on duty Wednesday night. “I haven’t heard of anything bad happening in the last semester and a half or so.”

At 1:30 a.m., the noise peaked as more people – some obviously intoxicated – wandered in. But aside from some shouting matches and a few dropped Odwalla bars, there was little unruliness. Two other DPS officers arrived and stood talking with Massey near the quesadilla station.

Fifteen minutes later, most of the crowd had started trickling out. An hour earlier, there was a 20-person line waiting to pay for food, but by 1:45 a.m. the two student cashiers sat reading.

There were still about 30 people hanging around Jo’s as the staff started cleaning up a few minutes before closing. Many of the tables were covered in trash and there were several spills of food on the floor. At 2 a.m., Jo’s staff turned off the lights in the dining room and the crowd started filing out into the dark.