Soon after arriving on campus in late August, students got their first glimpse of a newly renovated Josiah’s, the University’s late-night eatery.
Before this summer, Jo’s featured a seating area with white walls, carpet, minimalist seating and dim lighting. “It looked like a Holiday Inn in an 80’s-era mall,” Annabel Richards ’26 said. “It made me feel comfortable.”
The food service area — which was not renovated — still mirrors a 1950s diner with neon lights and striped walls.
The dining hall’s pre-renovation appearance had “character,” according to John Wilkinson ’25. “It was always crowded and fun.”
But after two years of discussions, Brown Dining Services decided it was time for an upgrade, Vice President of Dining Programs George Barboza wrote in an email to The Herald. The renovations were part of an effort to “provide a more inclusive dining experience for all students at the University,” The Herald previously reported.
Renovations began after students left campus in May as part of a series of summer space changes. “Our goal in building these spaces is to provide a more inclusive dining experience for all students at the University,” Barboza wrote.
Most students interviewed by The Herald learned about the renovations over the summer from friends on campus and through social media. Since the eatery reopened, students entering Jo’s are greeted by decorative wallpaper featuring vibrant green ivy and a silhouette of a man walking into the distance — an illustration of the eatery’s namesake, Josiah Carberry, by former Herald illustrator Loki Olin ’24.
Annie Schwerdtfeger ’24 finds the ivy slightly “aggressive and fake.”
“The wallpaper is very, very interesting, to put it nicely,” Wilkinson said.
Richards also expressed confusion about the silhouette: “I want to know who the guy on the wall is,” Richards said. “Where is he going?”
The wallpaper isn’t Jo’s only new addition. The seating area now features a modern black ceiling, black walls and updated lighting fixtures. “It’s definitely brighter,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing, though.”
But not all student reactions were negative. Schwerdtfeger, who believed that the eatery was in need of an update, likes that the seating area looks “nicer.” The renovation also replaced the carpet with solid flooring.
For first-year students who hadn’t seen the earlier version of Jo’s, the eatery’s new appearance is nothing out of the ordinary. “It seems like a normal dining hall that just happens to be open until 2 a.m.,” Ryan Lee ’27 said.
According to Barboza, students can expect more changes in the coming months, including new furniture and a “new BBQ concept.”
In general, students emphasized that the renovation feels somewhat out of place. “It just looks disjointed now,” Richards said.
And as the menu itself has not changed significantly, Schwerdtfeger believes the renovations will have “little impact on the student dining experience” in the long run.
Brooke Ury ’24 agreed, adding that “the money (spent on the renovations) could’ve gone towards many other things that could’ve positively impacted the student experience at Brown in a more meaningful way.”
“Jo’s isn’t supposed to be the nice, renovated dining hall,” Ury said, explaining that Jo’s grittiness was part of its charm. “It’s the place where you can laugh and have fun.”