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Blue Room reopens its doors to on-campus students

Dining hall reopened July 23 following more than a year of limited services due to COVID-19

From freshly baked sweets to New Harvest coffee to savory sandwiches and salads, the Blue Room was a staple of pre-pandemic, on-campus dining. On July 23, the Blue Room reopened its doors for in-person dining to students approved to be on campus for the summer 2021 semester — marking its first time offering full services since the onset of the pandemic, according to a July 22 email from Brown Dining Services to the Brown community. 

Following the July 12 expansion of the Sharpe Refectory to in-person dining, the reopening of the Blue Room comes as part of a University effort to return in-person dining options to campus as vaccination rates continue to rise, ending more than a year of primarily pick-up and takeout food services.

The Blue Room was last open to the student body with limited services for the fall 2020 semester, accepting online orders for pick-up only through the GET app, and was reopened for the summer semester to faculty and staff members July 12. But low levels of interest from faculty and staff led BDS to expand the dining hall’s services to the student body, Ann Oulette, a Blue Room cashier, said while working the register on the Blue Room’s Friday.

The near-universal on-campus vaccination levels further informed the University’s decision to reopen in-person dining options for students during the summer semester, The Herald previously reported.

Oulette has worked at the Blue Room for the past three years, facing the challenges that the pandemic posed to on campus dining head-on. After more than a year of navigating public health restrictions and limited services, she said she was just as excited as the student body to see the Blue Room reopen.

“I am so happy to see you guys,” she said. “I talk to every single person that comes in here.”

For many members of the student body, news of the Blue Room’s reopening traveled by word of mouth.

While stopping in the dining hall on the day of its reopening, Cecile Schreidah ’24 told The Herald that a friend from the Muslim Students’ Center told her about the announcement. Some underclassmen, including herself, did not receive the BDS email and instead relied on friends to tell them about the Blue Room’s new hours, according to Schreidah.

In the email, BDS also announced that it would only accept Bear Bucks, cash or credit cards as forms of payment. This differs from previous years in which Flex Points were also accepted as payment, leading some students to criticize the Blue Room’s inconvenience for those on meal plan this summer.

“I am a little upset (the Blue Room) doesn’t take Flex Points, but I am very happy that it is open,” Serena Levin ’24 told The Herald while stopping at the Blue Room the day it reopened. 

Mina Sarmas ’24 agreed, adding that, as a student on meal plan, she found the limited payment options inconvenient, and that it would make her less likely to use the Blue Room in place of other dining halls this semester.

As the Blue Room has been closed since their arrival on campus in the spring 2021 semester, many first-years noted that they were glad to have the opportunity to try the different food items the Blue Room offers, including pastries, sandwiches, snacks and the campus-favorite muffins.

“I (heard) so much about their pastries and muffins, and I am really excited to try them,” Schreidah said.

Besides for dining, students told The Herald that they are excited to utilize the space to study and catch up with friends. “It’s definitely a cute little spot to do work instead of a typical library,” Sarmas said.

The Blue Room is fit with a variety of places to sit including tables and chairs, along with booths and larger armchairs near the windows. “I think this will be a nice morning place to have coffee and do work,” Levin added. 

The Blue Room will continue to operate throughout the rest of the summer 2021 term, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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