Since its founding in 1964 by then-assistant chaplain Rev. John Cannon, Postcrypt Coffeehouse has remained “among a handful of really well run college venues of its kind.” Popular within the folk community both for the ridiculously cool space in St. Paul’s basement, and the dedicated crowds, the coffeehouse has hosted well-known artists such as Jeff Buckley, Lisa Loeb, and Ani DiFranco, and is one of the more enduring fixtures on the campus arts scene. But for the second time in just under a decade, the coffeehouse faces significant pressure from Columbia administrators, pressure that Postcrypt operators believe will end their operations.
The fun began last month, when, on our post about Postcrypt Art Gallery (a separate operation), a anonymous commenter wrote that the “coffeehouse sells tons of alcohol to minors and they don’t seem to have any problems.” Postcrypt members say that they have an alcohol proctor on hand, as well as strict carding procedures, but that one anonymous comment did not stop the Chaplain’s Office, Public Safety, and the Office of Student Government Advising from scheduling an “emergency meeting” with Postcrypt representatives in early December. Seriously, people, careful with those comments.
At this first meeting, the two sides agreed to add a security guard to prevent people from leaving Postcrypt with alcohol. However, at a second meeting a week later, Postcrypt was told that it would have to pay for part of the costs of the second security guard, add a second alcohol proctor, and cease storing alcohol in its storage closet (a practice that allows Postcrypt to save hundreds of dollars per year). Postcrypt members were so concerned about these extra costs that they offered at the meeting to stop serving alcohol entirely, only to have administrators say that people would think of a dry Postcrypt as a “BYOB event.” Throughout the two meetings, administrators did not cite any specific incidents to justify the changes in policy.
Later that day, Postcrypt manager Ginia Sweeney went to the coffeehouse “to collect revenue from last weekend,” only to find missing “two hot water heaters, our coffee maker, our hot plate, our popcorn maker and, for some bizarre reason, the unit that controls all of our power.” Administrators told Sweeney that the items were removed to put the space in line with fire codes, though no previous indication had been given for the removal, and in fact Postcrypt had received permission to use several of the items in the past. No administrators commented to Bwog.
Postcrypt staffers remain unsure how the coffeehouse will survive if forced to take on the extra costs. In the meantime, Low Library, Casa Italiana, and the Maison Francais continue to host alcohol-infused galas, but only if you’ve got the money to pay for it.