Starbucks, Steak ‘n Shake open at Union, roof construction begins

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A worker pulls a board onto the roof of the Texas Union to build safety railings on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. The Texas Union Ballroom roof is being replaced over the spring semester, but the construction should not impact events within the Ballroom.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

As Starbucks reopens, other areas of The Texas Union are undergoing multiple changes, with a new restaurant opening and roof construction starting over the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom. 

The Starbucks reopened Tuesday after closing last November due to a leak underneath the restaurant, said James Buckley, director of facilities and operations for University Unions. The leak also caused the restrooms on the first floor to close, but now all restrooms except the ones by the Cactus Café are open.

Buckley said the Starbucks leak was unrelated to the Union Underground flooding that caused the building to temporarily close last October. He said that the Union is looking for a permanent solution to last year’s flooding.

“Everything is operating as normal,” Buckley said. “We have a perfectly good solution in place, but we’re looking for a long term, permanent solution.”

Marketing sophomore Gloria Akinnibosun said the Starbucks provides a good place for students to get a quick snack or drink on campus.

“I know for a lot of people who have classes over there or their dorms, that is a convenient spot,” Akinnibosun said.

Psychology sophomore Marilyn Ajami said she is new to campus but has used local and campus Starbucks frequently.

“I just transferred here so I haven’t tried much, but I will use the resources that are around me,” Ajami said.

Steak ‘n Shake opened at the Union last Tuesday, Buckley said, and will serve only the restaurant’s most popular menu items similarly to the Chick-fil-A Express at the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center. While the restaurant has been open for a week, Buckley said the Union plans to hold grand opening festivities at the end of the month.

“Earlier this week, President (Gregory) Fenves and the athletic director came over and had lunch at Steak ‘n Shake,” Buckley said. “Apparently, President Fenves is a longtime big fan of Steak ‘n Shake.”

According to Fenves’ Twitter, Steak ‘n Shake was his “favorite place” when he was growing up in Illinois.

Akinnibosun said she thought the on-campus restaurants were very similar to each other and that the Steak ‘n Shake could provide more food diversity.

“I think most of the time the restaurants are just a duplicate of each other,” Akinnibosun said. “They’re just on two different sides of campus for convenience.”

Buckley said the construction around the Union is due to the replacement of the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom roof and will last for a few months. He said students can still access the ballroom, and the construction should not affect entrance into the Union.

“It does not impact events or activities going on in the ballroom, so it’s still fully functional,” Buckley said. “Other than the fact (that) if you’re outside and you see it, you wouldn’t know it’s going on.”

Buckley said the Guadalupe Street sidewalk is redirected due to the scaffolding, and is in place to prevent anything from the roof replacement falling on pedestrians.

“For a safety precaution, we want to make sure that we provide coverage for people should something inadvertently fall or drop,” Buckley said.