There’s nothing like a good smoothie. When made the right way, a smoothie is at once sweet and sour, liquid and solid, exciting and relaxing. Every happenin’ campus center needs to one to be complete. Our own Frist houses the Beverage Laboratory, a place where all of us can enjoy a small variety of delightful smoothies, and, most of the time, Bev Lab drinks do not disappoint. In its present state, the Bev Lab performs its function as a purveyor of mixed fruits and juices well enough. However, back in the day, before the behemoth we call Frist was opened, the Bev Lab was supposed to be much more.
When the Campus Center was being planned, the proposed Beverage Laboratory was intended to sell juice, tea, and alcohol. Alcohol would be provided only in the evening because the university didn’t want people drinking during the day, of course. But after Frist opened, and non-students began to frequent the campus center en masse, the Bev Lab never applied for a beer and wine license. At that point, it didn’t seem as though the Bev Lab needed to sell alcohol to attract customers. The Bev Lab was envisioned as something like what Café Vivian has become, a place where students could relax comfortably and enjoy delicious drinks as they read. Nice idea. People like Café Viv. Logically, people could have enjoyed the Bev Lab just as much. But, if you’ve ever been inside of it – which, sadly, is no guarantee – you might have noticed that it’s consistently vacant, in stark contrast to Café Viv, where every booth and every chair has a decent chance of being filled at any given time. Why is this?
Well, for starters, look at the place. Even though most of its flavors are colorfully named, the café itself is drowning in somber blue light. I guess that might be their way of signifying that it is in fact a “laboratory,” but in practice it’s sterile and uninviting. In addition to this, there are exactly three booths. People would be more inclined to come in and stay awhile if there were actually places to sit. When one walks into Frist, looking for something to drink, and someplace to drink it, one usually drifts towards Café Viv, because you can just chill out there, if you like. Chillin’ at the Bev Lab is like chillin’ at… well, I don’t really know; I’ve never chilled there. I sat down once to wait for a free Freshman Week smoothie, but once I got my drink I headed to the seats by the TV.
It’s not the staff’s fault, though, as far as I can tell, there can’t be more than three Bev Lab employees, all of whom work different shifts. This adds to the lack of comfort, because it means that whoever is working the register is also making the smoothies. So there’s no possibility of making generic small talk with the person at the register while your order is processed, which would be way more enjoyable than drumming your fingers on the counter for five minutes.
There’s a lot that could be done to spice the place up. Alcohol is always nice, but the university was correct in assuming that people would horrendously abuse the beer and wine served there, so that’s not really the solution. Basically, they just need to make the place fun. Not amusement park fun, or sex fun, because as nice as that would be, it’s damn near impossible for a drink store. They just have to turn up the lights, put a couch in there, a TV, maybe some foosball. I don’t actually have a real answer to the Bev Lab’s issues, but, all in all, anything they did would be an improvement over the sterile, cold little cube that, by the way, also closes way too early, and inexplicably runs out of ingredients every other minute. (How can they run out when there’s no one buying them?) It may never be Café Viv, and I guess for some people that’s a good thing, but it could be vastly improved in a summer’s work. (Paging Paul Breitman…) Though I will grant, they do make a good smoothie.