The Cactus Café is undoubtedly worth preserving, but is unsustainable in its present form. There is much potential for increased earnings, yet the University has spent scant time and resources exploring ways to make the venue relevant to the student body as well as profitable in keeping with the Texas Union’s Mission Statement. There are several ways to address UT’s primary criticism that the Cactus is largely used by non-students, and most are simple:
Advertising and Marketing The University is understandably uncomfortable promoting a venue that serves alcohol to students; thus advertisements of the café are not allowed on campus. Alcohol, however, is not at the center of the café’s mission. UT has not explored ways to allow the establishment to advertise those aspects that would further the Texas Union’s stated goals, while drawing more students and even tourists into the venue. The Cactus is awash with marketable elements. The problem that most students on campus have no idea the Cactus exists is easily rectifiable by posters and ads promoting Live Music, Landmark Historical Site, Microbrews, and so on.
Improving Food and Beverage Selection Although the Cactus has aged with grace, the same cannot be said of its food and beverages. Several years ago, the Texas Union opened a Starbucks next door, and the quality of their product is superior to the coffee that has been served in the Cactus for decades. It should offer better quality coffee and local snacks.
Introducing more Diverse and Pertinent Performers The Cactus should not limit itself to folk singer/songwriters almost exclusively; great as some of the music may be, there are scores of folk acts that attract only a handful of Baby Boomers. I do not suggest barring these groups entirely from the Cactus, but merely limiting the number of times they can perform during the year. Students who have their ear to the contemporary music scene should have their tastes and views considered. UT’s own student-run radio station 91.7 KVRX (and its Austin community counterpart KOOP) should have a stronger presence in the club, in much the same way that KGSR and KUT already do.