Ground Zero Performance Café will reopen this semester — but primarily as a study space.
The longtime student-run establishment, once known for its milkshakes and performances, will return after a year of renovations, according to the facility’s new management Trojan Events Services.
Milkshakes and coffee will no longer be made in-house, but performances and events like open mic nights and improv shows will be reinstated in the space.
TES said the space did not have the proper credentials to make fresh food, so it will instead consider selling pre-packaged food and drink.
Over the summer, a petition circulated online among students and alumni pleading the University to reopen the cafe in the fall.
“The purpose was to help the University realize how much Ground Zero meant to not even just the people who worked there but the student body in general,” said Moriah Polk, a junior majoring in communication, who worked as one of the cafe’s house managers at the cafe. “Sometimes [USC forgets] that we want something student-run and very comforting rather than something that is so grand.”
Production manager Syann Cromwell, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law and African American studies, noted that the space was intended to be an environment for students to congregate and relax while studying.
“[Ground Zero was a] free space [and] a unique environment on campus for students to hang out, enjoy milkshakes, enjoy live performances,” Cromwell said. “Just a different kind of vibe that wasn’t on campus before.”
While the space will be open in the fall, Polk said that she will miss serving culinary staples that allowed her to interact with customers in a student-oriented venue.
“It ultimately is a tragedy that we can’t sell food or milkshakes anymore,” Polk said. “I know what drew so many people to Ground Zero and drew people back years after they graduated. I know that it is a memory that we all shared together.”
Many employees agreed that the food and drink fostered a welcoming environment for students. House manager Kiera Salvo, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, shared how the space exuded friendliness.
“I think for me, USC’s campus, especially the places you can go between classes if you are going to stay on campus and you just grab coffee or food, it has all felt pretty sterile to me,” Salvo said. “Ground Zero was always a place where you didn’t have to do that. You could just sit there and talk to your friends, listen to the music that we were playing or just be sitting and studying and on a grind.”
Despite the changes coming to the space, Cromwell expressed how she and the other employees plan to work together to re-establish Ground Zero as a gathering space for students again this semester.