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The Ché Café is a worker co-operative, social center, and live music venue located on the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla, California, USA. Zack de la Rocha described the Ché Café as "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."
Che Cafe was founded in 1980 by several UCSD students, including Scott Kessler, Ruth Rominger, Kim Higgs, and Joy Every. The name "Che" in "Ché Café" is not only a nod to the late Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, but it is also a backronym for "Cheap Healthy Eats". The latter name was registered with the university administration in an attempt to avoid political scrutiny.
During the 1980s, collective members began to host reggae and punk rock shows, and in the 1990s, the space became an internationally recognized staple of the hardcore/punk/post-punk/indie rock scene. Today, the Che operates primarily as a venue for a variety of musical genres, many based around the DIY ethic, and is an on-and-off again vegan cafe and catering operation. It also acts as a resource for the music and art departments on campus through hosting art shows, performances and film screenings. Some of the most notable touring bands or musicians who have played the Che include, City of Caterpillar, Hot Cross, Green Day, Rise Against, Billy Corgan, Blonde Redhead, At the Drive-In, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Isis, Botch, Bright Eyes, Chumbawamba, Mike Watt, Hella, Sleep, Acid Mothers Temple, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, Bon Iver, the Damo Suzuki Network, Unwound, Jawbreaker, and Great Ghosts. The Che has also played host to many, if not most, of San Diego's most influential and notable indie bands, including Crossed Out, Drive Like Jehu, Crash Worship, Heroin, Antioch Arrow, Bay of Pigs, Clikatat Ikatowi, Gogogo Airheart, The Locust, Kill Me Tomorrow, Three Mile Pilot, Heavy Vegetable, Swing Kids, The Album Leaf, Weatherbox, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, and Cattle Decapitation.
UCSD administration clashes
Despite the university's initial support for the co-ops at UCSD, the relationship between the university and student co-ops has been in decline, with recent improvements made through mediation since 2003. The Ché Café in particular has for a long time had a very strained relationship with the university, and as with the other co-ops, there have been numerous attempts made by the university to close the space.
In the spring of 2000, UCSD attempted to close the space by changing the locks without members' consent, resulting in a lock-in by members and supporters. The UCSD administration cited as motivation a fight which occurred between two patrons at a show in which one was injured (though there has been much discrepancy as to what actually took place). Following the lock-in, the university tried to force the Ché to hire security guards for every show, but it was later ruled that the university did not have such authority under the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding between the co-ops and the university.
In 2002, the Ché agreed to sponsor the BURN! collective's web project, which was previously sponsored by the co-op bookstore Groundwork Books. BURN! was a directory of radical websites, mailing lists, and resources. The BURN! directory included a link to the webpages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a US State Department designated foreign terrorist organization. In 2004, the UCSD administration received a complaint about the link, accused the Ché Café core members of providing "material support" to the FARC in violation of the USA Patriot Act, and threatened disciplinary action. In arbitration, it was determined that the BURN! project was not hosting the FARC's website, simply linking to it, and so the University subsequently dropped its threats against the Ché core members.
On October 21st, 2014, the San Diego superior court ruled in favor of UCSD's filing of eviction towards the cafe. Ché Café was issued a notice it had to leave the premises within five days. The reasoning for the eviction is an unrenewed lease. Following this decision UCSD served the venue with an eviction notice on March 17th, 2015. The Ché Café has been under 24/7 student-led occupation since this date.
- Greg Moskovitch (2014-07-02). "Zack De La Rocha Reminds You Why Music Venues Are So Important". moshtix. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
- Barnaby Monk (2014-05-12). "Don’t let the Ché Café get punked by budget cuts". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
- Slashdot story on the linking controversy
- CNET article about FARC linking controversy
- Aleksandra Konstantinovic (2014-10-21). "Judge Rules for UCSD in Che Eviction Proceedings". NBC San Diego. Retrieved 2014-10-21.