What the Che? Annotations!

Hey! You’re obviously here for the footnotes to Triton’s What the Che? story. A big welcome and thanks to you. A few things first:

This piece could not have come together without the archival efforts of Susan Wingfield-Ritter and her giant binder of documents, as well as a giant Google Doc project orchestrated by the preeminent Che Café historian, Arnie Schoenberg ’89. In fact, a lot of what follows below is pulled straight from that doc, with some light editing and news clips and images popped in.

That doc was created when the Che was threatened by closure, as a means of collecting history and stories to establish its significance to the community over generations. In that spirit, if you have a story of the Che’s significance to you, please contribute to this similar Google doc here.


So without further ado:


  1. Chancellor Galbraith used $10,000 in incidental fees to pay for the building’s foundation, moving, plumbing, etc, and $5,000 more was spent on the kitchen and internal fixtures. Students & staff pitched in to dig ditches for the water/sewer/utility lines, and the Alpha Pi Omega fraternity got there early were halfway done by the time other students arrived. Even Dr. Hugh Bradner, future Revelle provost, and his wife joined in on the work. After a hard day’s work, the diggers celebrated with a keg of “Hawaiian Punch” (rumor has it the Dean actually bought them a keg of beer).When the yet-to-be-named coffee house opened that January, professor and folk singer Sam Hinton sang while Chancellor Galbraith and two Deans acted as cooks, and Mrs. Galbraith and Mrs. (Dean) Topolovac were waitresses. Once it became the “Coffee Hut” in March of ’67, the new dining facility’s patrons were initially graduate students and professors, including renowned chemist and Nobel Laureate, Harold Urey, who had a burger named after him.Fun fact: Students working in the garden in later decades report numerous archaeological remains behind the Ché, especially saw-cut bones and white tableware, probably associated with kitchen activities and trash disposal of this early period, but possibly earlier. (For real, Arnie found stuff like this when I went on his Che tour—pretty neat. Catch one the first Sunday of every month at noon. –JH)

  2. Not talking about the Revelle cafeteria food fights, but we hear they were epic. Any good stories out there? Email tritonmag@ucsd.edu


  1. The name Barry Shapiro ’69 kept popping up throughout research for this issue—quite possibly UC San Diego first true “radical.” Even now in his eighties, he’s still at it. Read more about Barry here.


  1. Debt! The perennial issue that would plague the space throughout its existence. One of the Che’s founders, Scott Kessler ’84 wrote a first-person account of such matters back in the day.
  1. Just interesting to note here that in the late ’70s, A.S. Council fought tooth and nail to keep the space, with management shortly moving to the student-run Student Center Board. Flash forward to the present 20-teens, and both entities would be the prime movers in having the space closed. Go figure!
McElroy drops plan - newspaper clipping
  1. Even as the Coffee Hut, the space was rooted in environmentalism. The first Earth Day events were held there in 1970, and you can find the vegan recipes from the restaurant over time here. Also, all-you-can-eat recipes!


  1. Take your pick: Che—or C.H.E.—as standing for (or at least a gentle nod to) “Coffee Hut Express,” or “Cheap Healthy Eats.” Either way, legend has it that such an innocuous acronym was proposed as a way to get administrative agreement on the name, and thereupon the iconic imagery would truly evoke the collective’s revolutionary ethos.


  1. This Google doc serves as a catalog of the Che’s murals, whether freshly painted or painted over. Many of the murals were also refreshed during the latest standoff with administration.


  1. Ad-copy from the LAGO’s Non-sexist dances held at the Che can be found on this slideshow (slide 66), along with a ton of other fun Che stuff.


  1. While a student worker for Triton magazine in YEAR, Jesse Alms ’11 did a feature story on the Che that goes much deeper into the inception of the space as a music venue. You can find that here.


  1. Back in the Coffee Hut days it was rumored San Diego’s own Tom Waits used to take the mic in the space. But the real bookings began in the late ’80s into the ’90s and continue today. Just as the Che’s politics lean left, the music taste leans esoterically alternative—anywhere from indie and artsy to heavy metal and hardcore. It’s hosted many well-known groups back when they weren’t so well-known: Green Day, Chumbawumba, Jimmy Eat World, and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan being the most recognizable of the names, but here’s an extensive list from their website for those in the know:
    Green Day flyer - Che Cafe
    Green Day flyer – Che Cafe

    The Murder City Devils, City of Caterpillar, Converge, American Nightmare, Green Day, Rise Against, Billy Corgan, Infest, Cursive, Lewd Acts, Blonde Redhead, At the Drive-In, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Page Ninety Nine, Kylesa, Matt & Kim, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Kimya Dawson, Paul Baribeau, Defiance Ohio, Deerhoof, The Donkeys, Lightning Bolt, Harry & the Potters, Black Dice, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Isis, Botch, Bright Eyes, Graf Orlock, Comadre, Moving Units, Seven Generations, Chumbawamba, Mike Watt, Hella, Sleep, Acid Mothers Temple, Animal Collective, BARR, Beautiful Skin, Japanther, The Make Up, Find Him and Kill Him, Dan Deacon, Bon Iver, Circle Takes the Square, Coachwhips, the Damo Suzuki Network, Unwound, Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, Drive Like Jehu, Gogogo Airheart, The (international) Noise Conspiracy, Swing Kids, Unbroken, The Locust, Arab on Radar, Gehenna, Le Shok, The Microphones, Mount Eerie, The Blood Brothers, These Arms Are Snakes, The Chinese Stars, Kill Me Tomorrow, The Casualties, Leftover Crack, Subhumans, Citizen Fish, Om, Jesu, Abe Vigoda, No Age, Health, FIDLAR, Chromatics, Glass Candy, Business Lady, Meneguar, Castanets, Horse the Band, Daughters, An Albatross, The Black Heart Procession, My Chemical Romance, Toys That Kill, Three Mile Pilot, Heavy Vegetable, The Album Leaf, Rob Crow, Cattle Decapitation, Antioch Arrow, Weatherbox, Dutchesses, Danava, Cuckoo Chaos, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, Wavves, Best Coast, Cloud Nothings, The Faint, No Knife, Blessure Grave, Dystopia, Chelsea Wolfe, Earth, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven, Xiu Xiu, The Body, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Maria Taylor, Her Space Holiday, Deathcab For Cutie, Mirah, Dashboard Confessional, OFF, Earthless, Sleeping People, Envy, Erase Errata, Far, Woods, R. Stevie Moore, The One AM Radio, The Spits, Heathers, Tilly & the Wall, Of Montreal, Casper & the Cookies, Julie Doiron, Trash Talk, The Vanishing, The Velvet Teen, Vue, Wampire, Religious Girls, XBXRX, and many many others.

  1. This seems like a good place to note the Che’s policy for no drugs or alcohol, a hallmark of “straight-edge” movement which started in the ’80s/’90s.


  1. Extensive documentation about the Che and other co-op clashes can be found on this page of the New Indicator website.


  1. Great coverage on the latest saga of conflict can be found here from the Guardian.


  1. For details on the ins-and-outs about what it took to Save the Che, see Monty Kroopkin’s essay “What it Took to Save the Che” at the very bottom of this page here.
  2. Among the many to sign petitions and write statements of support for the Che, past performers also contributed their voice. Here’s one from Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine:

My name is Zack de la Rocha of the revolutionary group of musicians known as Rage Against the Machine. I am writing this letter as a member of a growing community of artists who are concerned about the UCSD administration’s latest attempts to shut down the Che Cafe. A place that is not only a great venue, but a source of inspiration and community building for any artist, student, or worker that has entered its doors.

In its ever-shifting rationales for attempting to close the Che Cafe, the administration has clearly lost its focus on what this venue has done to enhance the student educational experience and the university as a whole. Simply put, no other university campus venue in all of California has done more to build a bridge between students of UCSD, regional artists, and indeed artists from around the world. This unique forum of cultural and political exchange is a rarity, and without diminishing the merits of other student organizations on the UCSD campus, few can boast the kind of scope and positive influence that the Che Cafe has garnered for over three decades.

I have performed at the Che Cafe a number of times and always left more empowered, more informed, and more inspired than when I arrived. Like so many others, I am personally indebted to the dedicated people throughout the years who have tirelessly worked to create a safe, all ages, truly democratic venue; one that should be embraced and defended as an indispensable campus forum for art and ideas.

In solidarity,
Zack de la Rocha.

AGAIN, tell your story about the Che, and hopefully view others, here!