Judah Nicole Lyles
Wilkes’ campus has a few social staples for its students, as the SUB, Stark Learning Center and E.S. Farley Library serve as essential social spots. However, one social staple that has been somewhat crippled by the pandemic is the campus Starbucks.
While outdoor seating has persisted through the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor seating has not been an option for students to use, as the chairs and tables were removed to make space for social distanced checkout lines. As of late April 2021, Starbucks has reopened its indoor seating to guests.
As vaccinations have become available to Pennsylvanians 16 and older, many guidelines from the CDC have been revised. Masks are, as is campus policy, required when not eating or drinking within the establishment.
“The decision to allow limited seating at Starbucks was made after careful consideration of all state, local and Wilkes University Health and Safety guidelines,” said Wilkes Food Service Manager James Watkinson. “We advise all guests to maintain social distancing, wear masks while not seated and eating or drinking, wash hands frequently and remember that all furniture is placed based on social distancing guidelines.”
Masks are an essential aspect of reducing the risk within dining establishments, according to the CDC.
“The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” reports the CDC website. “Masks may reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread when they are consistently used by customers and employees, especially when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as interactions within 6-feet of others increase.”
Starbucks has put its own procedures in place in order to keep its customers safe and comfortable.
“Starbucks is committed to caring for the health and well-being of its partners, employees and customers and playing a constructive role in supporting local health officials and government leaders,” the Starbucks website read. “The company continues to observe elevated cleaning and sanitizing protocols that meet or exceed public health guidelines and can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All stores use the ‘Clean, Safe and Ready’ system to ensure the well-being of partners and customers, cleaning high-touch surface areas as frequently. Additionally, we have installed plexiglass POS shields and bar guards to better protect both partners and customers.”
In addition to company policies, the Wilkes University Starbucks is only accessible via the South Main Street Entrance. Customers must exit via the Karambelas East Campus Gateway, as per the “Colonels Combat COVID” handbook. There are also floor decals within Starbucks that denote the proper amount of space between customers in line.
Prior to this semester, there were also stanchions that kept customers at a safe distance from one another. Again, as vaccines have become more widely available, policies have been revised in order to keep up with changing circumstances.
Students have expressed the importance of having Starbucks available to them in the midst of the pandemic and the likelihood that they will be dining inside of the establishment — just another sign of things returning to normal.
“Starbucks is super important to me,” said Aariyana Gould, a sophomore musical theater student. “I don’t drink coffee, but going to Starbucks and getting my pink drink every few days has always been important while being on campus. Even before the pandemic hit, I would go to Starbucks, but I will say that I’m there more frequently nowadays.”
As the weather becomes warmer and students become vaccinated, Starbucks will soon become the regular hangout spot that the Wilkes community lived inside before the pandemic.