Construction underway for campus Starbucks

Campus Local News

Finnerty Express cafe officially shut its doors July 20, paving the way for the corporate chain to debut this September 

Photo by Josh Kozelj, Senior Staff Writer and Editor

Starbucks coffee is set to make its debut on campus on Sep. 3, with renovations currently underway of the former Finnerty Express Cafe in the UVic Bookstore complex.

“The renovation started July 23, and will be completed on or before Sep. 3,” a spokesperson for UVic said in an email with the Martlet. 

Finnerty Express, a campus favourite with ties to local bakeries and Salt Spring Coffee, closed its doors for good on July 20. Since then, construction crews have been working around the clock to transition the locally-sourced cafe into the first Starbucks location on campus. 

Facilities Management is working with Nanaimo-based National Contracting Solutions on the project. In the meantime, the university said that other coffee shops on campus like Halftime and Mystic Market will remain open while Finnerty undergoes renovations in the summer. 

Also, UVic alerted students in a memo that any pre-paid coffee tickets or loyalty stamp cards for Finnerty can be refunded in the bookstore. 

“The Finnerty crew will be honouring your loyalty stamp cards even if you are a few short,” the UVic Bookstore wrote on their website. “Thank you all for your patronage over the years.” 

Since the Martlet reported in November that Starbucks would soon replace Finnerty Express, many students on campus have opposed the takeover. Just days after the news broke last fall, UVic students formed a #StopStarbucksUVic Facebook page in hopes of garnerning signatures to stop the move, and wrote various chalk messages on campus echoing those sentiments. 

Over 800 people currently like the Stop Starbucks UVic Facebook page, and nearly 2 300 signatures have been recorded on the Stop Starbucks petition page. 

It hasn’t only been students voicing their concerns about Starbucks, as the Martlet uncovered in April through a Freedom of Information request that members of the UVic administration received emails from over 30 alumni, faculty, staff, and community members about the decision to replace Finnerty with Starbucks. 

One UVic Political Science professor (whose name was redacted from the FOI request) emailed to shed light on Starbucks’ controversial sourcing problems, which they lectured about in class. 

Only 8.6 per cent of the beans that Starbucks buys are Fair Trade certified, and those beans are almost never used in prepared coffee, the professor said. 

“Thus, we can safely assume that none — or almost none — of the coffee they will serve on campus will be Fair Trade,” the professor said. “If you investigate more closely and compare the company to (coffee) companies that support fair trade and ethical sourcing, then Starbucks does extremely poorly.”

Starbucks claims their beans are “ethically sourced”, this claim is based off their own policy that defines ethical sourcing and does not concede with international Fair Trade certifications.

The momentum to bring Starbucks to UVic, however, has been in the works for years. 

While most community members cited fair trade, sustainable practices, and lack of transparency in the process, the university has declared the decision to replace Finnerty was based off a 2015 survey that found interest in bringing a Starbucks to campus. 

UVic Food Services sent the survey to more than 8 000 members of the campus community, and received responses from 2 816 individuals. Of the respondents, over 2 300 were identified as students, and 500 as faculty or staff. 

The survey primarily focused questions on experiences with UVic Food Service venues, but one question asked which national brands individuals wished to see on campus. Of the 816 respondents to that question, 206 members of the campus community explicitly named Starbucks as a brand they wished to see on campus. 

With Starbucks scheduled to open next month, UVic Director of Food Services Jim Forbes said the university is looking at potentially setting up a meeting for students on campus with any concerns they may have about the opening. 

No date, or timeframe, was provided for the potential meeting. Students should contact Forbes if they have concerns with Starbucks, so they can talk directly with a representative with the company, said the UVic spokesperson. 

Despite the transition away from Finnerty, Forbes said in an article written by the Martlet in April that the university is “exploring opportunities” to maintain partnerships and selling opportunities with other university cafes with Salt Spring Coffee and the local bakeries that distributed through Finnerty. 

Forbes also mentioned Starbucks will be accountable to all of UVic’s sustainability principles and practices, promising to offer 100 per cent fair trade coffee and tea.