The ASU Downtown campus has been instrumental in the growth and success of some businesses, but the owner of Sens Asian Tapas and Sake Bar said the campus has not helped his business, and parking issues posed another problem for him.
Sens is relocating in June to Central Avenue and Thomas Road, according to owner Johnny Chu. He said he chose not to renew the lease for the current location due to the limited amount of metered parking spaces nearby that he frequently sees ASU students taking up. This detracts from his business, he said.
“I was a student once. I always parked on the street, but there are only 16 or 17 street spaces,” Chu said. “There’s no way people can get a space.”
Chu said he has never seen the ASU McKinley lot near Sens completely full during his four years downtown. Because the lot is not available to the public, those without a permit are ticketed, which also hurts Sens’ business.
“You see an empty parking lot, you park. This is not LA,” Chu said. He added that he would want the city and ASU to work together to make the parking lot available to the public and consider metering the lot.
“We have to do something to make downtown better,” Chu added.
Sens has tried to approach ASU officials about the parking situation, but they “never really do anything about it,” he said.
The new space on Thomas Road has lower rent and more parking space, making it a better location, Chu said. However, he would rather stay in the current location since businesses often lose clients with relocation.
Sens does not attract a significant amount of students, said Chu, also adding to the decision to relocate.
“ASU Downtown is great for a city feel, but I usually only get business from professors, not students,” Chu said. “We’re more trendy and lounge-like. It’s hard to tap into the student market with that.”
It’s not uncommon to see Jobot, on Fifth and Roosevelt streets, bustling with students on a Friday after midnight. Jobot keeps its doors open 24 hours on Fridays and has extended hours during the weekend.
Local foot traffic made up a majority of clients when the business opened, said owner John Sagasta. The amount of student business increased with the opening of the Downtown campus, he said.
Sagasta said his attempts to cater to a young audience contribute to Jobot’s success with students.
“Most of us are a little older and we try to look back and focus on the cool stuff we were into back in the day,” he added.
He also believes some of the business success stems from Jobot’s workers. With a young and diverse staff, there’s more appeal and creativity, Sagasta said.
“The staff here is really eclectic,” Sagasta said. “They lend to the buzz. They’re different and we keep people wondering ‘What else are they going to do?’ They add to the level of creativity.”
Although Jobot does not currently offer student discounts, Sagasta has received feedback and calls about setting up a student discount card.
“I’m not real good at calling people back, but I’d love to work something out,” he said.
The Downtown campus brought Fair Trade Cafe to its second location. ASU asked the coffee shop to expand to its location in Civic Space Park, said owner Michele White.
“We were not planning on opening a second location, but the opportunity to be on campus was a good one and we took the risk,” she said.
Fair Trade offers a student discount on its Better Earth Menu special and they also take Sun Dollars, which adds to the business they get from students, White said.
White hopes to spread Fair Trade’s mission message to students. Her goal is “educating consumers about social consumerism and how to make a positive impact with their purchases.”
She also explained the importance of the role of students in the downtown community.
“They create a huge influx to help revitalize the downtown community and we hope they will be active downtown community members,” she said.
Dominic Valente, a freshman majoring in journalism, said he frequents Roosevelt Row scene and makes visits to Jobot every other day.
Valente likes the shop’s ambiance and the service, he said. The baristas are attentive and he now knows them on a first-name basis, Valente said.
“It’s one of the only places to hang out after-hours, and especially as a young college student on the weekends, I’m looking for cool places to hang out,” Valente added.
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