After many months of construction, the addition to the Lawrence Dining Hall stands tall and proud. On one corner, an enticing neon “Diner” sign beckons students to peer in at red vinyl barstools and tables already set with condiments. So why have they been stopped by locked doors and “construction site” signs? Why is the diner still closed?According to Dr. Tom Purce, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, the university is waiting on West Chester Borough approval for the diner’s fire suppression system. This system, manufactured by Gaylord, is mounted over cooking areas which use grease and is specially designed to spray chemicals on a grease fire. Water, if used on a grease fire, would cause the grease to splatter, spreading the flames.
Dee Giardina, Interim Executive Director of Design and Construction, explained late last week that the West Chester office is unfamiliar with the new wet chemical system, which at one stage mixes water with the chemicals. This system has been tested for grill use, and has approval from the state, in addition to being recognized by several National Fire Protection Association fire codes, according to www.nafed.org. However, because water has the potential to be so dangerous near grease, the West Chester office is cautious, and is currently reviewing the documentation of the system.
As soon as it’s given the go-ahead, the diner will be open from noon until one a.m., seven days a week. While there has been some interest in a 24-hour diner, such hours were never planned. Dr. Purce said, “If there are one or two students between two and six a.m., it isn’t really worth keeping it open.” However, if there is demonstrated demand, the hours may be extended.
The diner, which will have a “traditional diner” menu including eggs available anytime, homefries and milkshakes, was supposed to be open much earlier, but the project faced several delays. One was the initial use of a poor grade of steel, which then had to be replaced by U.S. manufactured steel girders. After the facility was basically complete, there was a “punch-list” of items, including a long set of small but necessary touch-up items the construction crew had to complete before the building was ready for inspection. Some of these included final cleaning, paint touch-up and installation of security cameras.
Security is a final issue with the diner, especially with late-night hours. It would be nice to have a place to come hang out or calm down after a late party, but by the same token, the staff and building must be protected from overly rowdy guests and vandalism. Dr. Purce mentioned overhearing some students admiring the chairs in the seating area outside Lawrence, saying, “I’d like one of those for my dorm room!” While many students are only joking with such comments, some follow through – providing one of the concerns that might keep our diner closed more hours than we’d like.