Lafayette’s one-stop shop for pancakes, hamburgers and other classic diner food, The Trolley Stop, has had its opening postponed yet again. Originally set to open next Monday, the diner, located on the ground floor of the new McCartney residence, has already experienced numerous COVID-19 related delays leading up to its long-awaited grand opening.
Due to the uptick in positive COVID-19 cases this past week and Lafayette transitioning to Operational Level 2, The Trolley Stop’s grand opening has been pushed to April 26, as stated in an announcement from Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio on April 15.
Christopher Brown, General Manager of Dining Services, described The Trolley Stop as a “venue that is distinctly different than the student dining experience on campus, while also being open to the general public.”
For the time being, however, Trolley Stop will be open solely to Lafayette students. Greg Scofield, director of business services, cites preservation of the Lafayette “bubble” in the last few weeks of the semester as the primary motivation for this decision. Currently, reservations are limited to a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 40 people and can be made by contacting Scheduling & Events at email@example.com.
Scofield and Brown explained that, as an independently-operated dining venue that is owned by the college, the Trolley Stop is considered a “public entity” and is subject to state and CDC guidelines, which accounts for the strict reservation numbers.
“I get the students’ perception that it’s a part of campus, but it’s off-campus and it’s the same as going to an Easton restaurant. The other important thing is, we did want to give as many students as possible the experience in the diner…and be excited about it…when they come back in the fall,” Scofield said.
With this in mind, The Trolley Stop Diner is being opened at less than 50% of its full capacity. The diner can serve up to 140 patrons, though a typical capacity in the future is expected to be around 80. Scofield explained that reservations are open to student groups, a term that will be “loosely defined” and can encompass any entity from a sports team, Greek organization, students who reside on a residential floor together, or even the writers at The Lafayette or other student organization members.
In a follow-up email, Brown further outlined COVID mitigations that will be in place at the diner, including distancing tables six to eight feet apart, clearly marking tables that are not in service and limiting the number of people seated at one table to four or less. However, there will be no plexiglass around the tables, unlike in other dining facilities on campus.
The menu offered by the diner will also be reduced at its opening, meaning items like milkshakes and fried pickles will not be available until the fall, but items like avocado toast, omelets, burgers, onion rings and even “Loaded Leopard Bowls” will be served.
Scofield said he was most excited for the California burger, and Brown said he was most excited for the Loaded Leopard Bowl.
While staff are currently still being hired and trained by Lafayette’s food service provider Bon Appétit, and staff may be pulled from work at other dining halls to meet the needs of Trolley Stop, the diner will ultimately employ a fully dedicated staff, which will be a mixture of Easton residents and student workers. Chef Jaimie Inzillo and Manager Sam LaRosa will be leading the project on the ground.
Commenting on the future of The Trolley Stop, both Scofield and Brown expressed their enthusiasm for giving students “a taste” of the diner, before it begins to operate at something closer to the initial vision in the fall.
“When you get closer to the summertime, we’re going to open up to the general public,” Scofield explained. “By July, we’re talking about the student athletes returning…[There will be] a real big grand opening bash, come, probably first or second week…in August.”