On Wednesday evening, Bibo Coffee on Record St, on the South end of campus, refused to resign itself to a quiet closure. Instead, the coffee shop was transformed into a makeshift block party, with food trucks, a DJ, live performances from local bands, and the overpowering smell of marker filling the interior as people wrote messages and created temporary works of art on its walls as a form of parting messages. Seeing the dozens of attendees in a constant flow in and out, it really sank in how much this place meant to so many people, and what its forced closure by the university, who purchased its location some time ago, means for UNR as a community.
I’ve heard it argued that Bibo Coffee has multiple locations, so why the big deal? You can still get their coffee. I have to vehemently disagree—to argue this is to only appreciate things for their concrete, pragmatic value. It’s like telling someone who lost their wedding ring to simply buy another ring. It fails to recognize the sentimental value of a thing beyond its intended use. Bibo on Record Street wasn’t merely a coffee shop—it was a sort of cultural hub, allowing students and customers a sort of access point to Reno’s underground art and music scene. Bibo featured a small section for local flyers on its counter near the espresso machines, and anyone who skimmed this section could find flyers for local music performances, art installations, radio stations, and even grassroots political groups.
Record Street had a particular aesthetic other Bibo locations fail to capture. Bibo’s Record Street location had a very punk rock sensibility about it, whether it be the art on the walls courtesy of the Holland Project or the eclectic music played by baristas. However, it was also very casual and had a lived-in feel. With wood panel floors, brick walls and old couches, it somehow felt both industrial and comfortable, as though somebody had converted an old mill into a makeshift home.
As for my personal experience, I work for a student journal called Brushfire, and Record Street was kind enough to allow us to use its uniquely large and open space to host our semesterly open mic known as AMPS, in collaboration with other student media organizations. Record Street embraced students and their interests and the underground culture of Reno in a way few other businesses around campus seem to do: it bridged the gap between them, instead of focusing on one or the other.
Its demise is part of UNR’s expansion plan, which to me feels like an attempt to turn UNR into something it wasn’t ever really intended to be: a prestige college. UNR is a fantastic school and features a beautiful campus, but it isn’t UCLA or UC Berkeley. And the university is seeking to change its perception, as well as the perception of Reno, by making the college a bigger feature of the city and expanding its reach. But in doing so, it is slowly killing the little things that make Reno fun and interesting. It is homogenizing the culture surrounding the university in an attempt to make it more appealing to new applicants. At least, that’s my perception of it.
Record Street Bibo wasn’t just a college haunt like The U (rumored to be the next victim of UNR’s expansion) or Rick’s, but rather it was a way for students to get plugged into the wider Reno culture, and perhaps exposed some students—myself included—to facets of the Reno art and music scene they would otherwise be unaware of. And now, it’s going to be cubicles.
Matt Cotter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattCotter12