HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago closed its south campus dining hall on Thursday evening after city inspectors found insects and mice droppings, among other problems.
“I thought it was just the dishwasher broke down or something,” said first-year Komal Kawatra.
The university is keeping the Bartlett and Pierce dining halls open for students from the largest dormitory on campus. Kawatra said she would look for food elsewhere because the other dining halls were too far.
On Nov. 20, city health inspectors found 40 to 45 live fruit flies 75 to 100 mouse droppings scattered under sinks and along the walls in the food prep area of the Arley D. Cathey Dining Commons. Inspectors also found overflowing garbage cans and liquid dripping from the trash compactor, and ordered the entire food prep area be detail cleaned and sanitized.
City inspectors returned on Thursday and found there were still fruit flies and ordered the dining hall closed.
“Oh wow, in a brand new facility, that’s impressive,” said Dylan Westring, a recent hire at the university hoping to eat lunch at the dining hall for the first time on Friday. “It’s one thing if it’s a seven-year-old building, but you don’t expect that in new construction.”
Aramark, the contractor running the university’s dining facilities, will fumigate and clean the Dining Commons, before city inspectors return to determine if it can be reopened.
Workers could be seen inside with flashlights going over all food preparation areas and said they expected the dining hall would reopen within a few days.
“The university agrees with the city’s conclusion that these conditions are unacceptable,” said Richard Mason, director of UChicago Dining in a statement late Thursday. “We are working urgently with our dining vendor to remedy this situation. University leaders are committed at the highest levels to ensuring that all of our dining facilities go beyond what is required, to meet the high standards of the university and of our students.”
According to the university, the closure was unrelated to a dozen students at the dormitory contracting the norovirus, which causes stomach and intestinal issues, on Nov. 21.
The Dining Commons was last cited on May 22 for peeling paint, pooling water and gaps in doors leading to the garbage area.