Vegie Patch Shutdown3 April 2019
Union House’s popular sandwich store ‘Vegie Patch’, amongst other stores, has closed down over the summer to the disappointment of many students.
A vitriolic message was left on the menu board of the store that offered healthier options amongst a sea of fast food, and has since cast a spotlight on the University’s operation of food stalls. However, it was not the closing down that drove the most discussion; rather, it was the message left behind.
The message is attributed to Yijing (Jenny) Xu, one of the purported owners of the popular food store. Farrago is not suggesting that Yijing Xu is the sole owner, or the standalone spokesperson for Vegie Patch.
“Evil !!! [sic]” read the message. “I will fight until my last blood.”
The message alleged conduct by the University, referred to in its role as a landlord, was cause for some concern. There are three key actions alleged against the University, which Farrago will cover in chronological order.
The notice claims that the store’s lease renewal was contingent on the owners agreeing to specific requirements to upgrade in 2007.
“We had the lease renewed after we agreed to use [the University’s] nominated designer and builder to make some simple cosmetic make ups [sic] of the shop at an expensive price.”
There was no evidence provided to back up this claim, nor was Farrago able to get in touch with the owner of the store to whom the message can be attributed.
The message goes on to state that the owner was active in campaigning on behalf of other stores facing closure at the hands of the University, which resulted in backlash against the owner.
“As revenge [for the campaigning], I received an offer to renew our lease with ridiculous terms such as replacing all aluminum bench top and all floor covering [sic],” Xu stated.
The University opted not to provide specific comment on the details of the allegations. A University spokesperson provided the following statement:
“Food outlet tenants operate under a commercial lease arrangement with the University. The University owns the building. Each outlet is managed as per the terms of individual leases.”
“The Vegie Patch tenant’s lease came to an end with no more options to renew,” the statement concludes.
It is important to note that none of these allegations are able to be verified at this stage. Given the nature of the disagreement and the bad blood evidenced in the message, it is possible that these allegations are entirely false, or misrepresent the situation.
Discussions over these allegations with legal experts indicated little immediate liability on behalf of the University. The source, who was unwilling to be named, indicated that the length of time since the alleged conduct makes it more difficult to pursue action. They also noted the importance of acknowledging that the sign represented one side of a seemingly contentious relationship, and thus is unreliable in terms of accuracy.
Farrago went down many avenues to contact the store owners to clarify the situation; however, these attempts were unsuccessful. Ultimately, there appear to be no further avenues to pursue this story.
The closure of the Vegie Patch is not the only change to store frontage in Union House in recent times. Other popular stores, including ‘Uni Curry’, ‘Sweet Tooth’ and ‘Old Saigon Noodles’ have all been replaced. The curry shop will become a kitchen facility, the noodle shop is set to transform into a ‘Wash Against Waste’ space, and the confectionary store will be a stall that sells fresh fruit and vegetables.
While many students will no doubt be grateful for the addition of more environmentally conscious and healthy options, these changes represent a significant change in the makeup of Union House. This may be in preparation for the planned move to the new Student Precinct in the coming years.
With the number of changes present in Union House at the moment, it is possible that more controversy will arise in a similar vein in the future.