While you were away: Summer changes in South Bethlehem

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While the spring semester came to an end for Lehigh students, the university and South Bethlehem continued to make changes. Here are some of the things you might have missed while you were away:

Blue Sky Café closes

Blue Sky Café, located on West Fourth Street, placed an eviction notice on its doors on July 17. The café was a popular brunch spot for Lehigh students. (Klaudia Jazwinska/B&W Staff)

Blue Sky Café, a brunch restaurant located on West 4th Street in South Bethlehem, closed its doors this summer.

Blue Sky’s proximity to Lehigh and its variety of dining options made it a popular off-campus eatery for Lehigh students. Some students, like Shazeb Fahim, ’20, were frequent visitors.

“I went there maybe six times last year, and I was really upset when they closed up,” Fahim said.

The restaurant posted a closing sign on its door in late May, and an eviction notice was placed on the storefront July 17.

A number of South Bethlehem restaurants, including George’s Light Lunch, have recently closed. Full of Crepe closed its South Bethlehem location last Friday.

The exact reason why Blue Sky closed is unclear. The owner could not be reached for comment.

“Maybe Lehigh isn’t engaging with the Bethlehem community enough,” Praveen Joseph, ’20, said.

Michael G. Colón, a member of the Bethlehem City Council, enjoyed the café.

“Anytime you’re opening any business in the food service industry you’re taking on a lot of risk,” Colón said. “There’s a hundred different variables that go into the successes and failures of any place.”

Colón said South Bethlehem businesses compete with restaurants and shops in North Bethlehem and Saucon Valley. He thinks the lack of parking in South Bethlehem has been a problem for businesses. North Bethlehem has two large parking garages.

Colón said the construction of the new parking garage and office building on the corner of East Third and New Street may increase the amount of traffic coming through South Bethlehem. The new parking garage will add parking spots, and new employees in the office building will increase the number of potential customers.

Leon’s Bar and Restaurant closes

Leon’s Bar and Restaurant, located on the corner of East 5th and Fillmore streets, closed its doors over the summer. The bar was a popular late night spot attended by Lehigh students. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

For years, Leon’s Bar and Restaurant was a favorite among Lehigh students. The popular university watering hole was located on the 400 block of East Fifth Street.

“Leon’s was the quintessential college dive bar, and I mean that in the most endearing way,” alumna Summer Sullivan, ’17, said.

In the beginning of 2017, students returned to campus to find the bar locked and out of operation. There was no explanation for the abrupt closing.

According to Pennsylvania court dockets, Leon’s owner Joseph Bianco was arrested multiple times. Most recently, in August 2017, he was arrested for a violation of order but is no longer in custody. Last year, he was charged with terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment.

He could not be reached for comment.

Many Lehigh students have expressed their dismay about the disappearance of Leon’s.

Sullivan said the bar was a favorite among Lehigh students because it was so close to campus, making students feel safe.

John Fitz, ’18, lived next to Leon’s last year and said the experience was ideal. He said students valued Leon’s for its convenience and atmosphere as well as the overall space, including the outdoor patio.

“It was really friendly, everyone was always in a good mood. For me, I would see a lot of people I wouldn’t have classes with,” Sullivan said.

Leon’s Bar and Restaurant remains closed.

Fairchild Martindale Library and Computing Center expands seating

E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library went through various renovations over the summer. Some of those renovations include more space for tables and seats, with new outlets available at every table. (Danielle Bettermann/B&W Staff)

Renovations of E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library continued this summer as the Library and Technology Services (LTS) team worked toward starting its EWFM 2020 plan.

Bruce Taggart, the vice provost for LTS, worked with librarians to deaccession, or remove, stacks of books on sixth floor south. The same process was completed last year when the stacks were removed from fifth floor south and replaced with open seating.

LTS performed analytics on the books to determine low, medium and high usage and removed the ones with low to no usage. Some books had not been taken out since the 1980s.

Taggart also noticed some spaces were overcrowded with extension cords because students needed to charge their laptops and phones. Now, about 15 new seats with tables and whiteboards fill the sixth floor. Outlets are available at each table to make charging more convenient for students. Taggart said student response has been positive.

“I really like this new space,” Katie Emery, ’18, said. “The high-tech light and charging stations at each seat are great, and we all have our own divided space. There’s group areas and individual areas, so it’s similar to the fifth floor with more options for individual study.”

As the deaccessioning continues, Taggart said LTS plans on introducing new collaborative study spaces, quiet study spaces, teaching classrooms and areas for special student groups, such as the Baker Institute.

“It’s not like we’re trying to do away with print media, it all depends on the usage,” Taggart said. “I assume that some people wonder if we are doing this too fast, if we are really doing the analytics. I’ve had no feedback from faculty or students saying that they couldn’t find anything.”

This fall, the team is focusing on the process of deaccessioning, and Taggart hopes their efforts will open up space in the library to install more seating as the student population continues to grow.

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