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University closes Megabytes Café after reports of rodents

Cafe not expected to reopen until at least next Friday, spokesperson says

After students shared multiple videos on social media depicting rodents in the Megabytes Café, a university spokesperson said the cafe will be closed effective at 9 p.m. on Nov. 1 and will not reopen until AU has “sufficient time to develop a remediation plan.”

AU spokesperson Mark Story said the University expects the closure to last through next Friday, Nov. 9.

“American University is aware of concerns in the community regarding Megabytes Café, operated by a tenant in a building on campus,” Story said in an email. “Both the University and the tenant take the health, safety, and well-being of our community seriously.”

Tom Gera, the owner of Megabytes as well as Mudbox, American Cafe and Asian Flavors, said in a Thursday interview prior to the announcement of the closure that he volunteered to close the cafe until Nov. 10 so that AU’s auxiliary services department can temporarily repair holes in the wall that allow rodents to enter.

Megabytes will close again in December for permanent repairs, he said. Gera, who has operated the cafe since 2003, added that he was not surprised to see the videos of the rodents.

“I’ve been begging since summer to get this problem solved,” Gera said.

In July, Gera said he asked the University to help the cafe with repairs to keep pests out of the space. But the University proposed closing Megabytes in September to address the problem rather than making the repairs during the summer, Gera said.

Gera rejected the proposal because September is one of his busiest months for business. He believes AU has become more responsive to the issue after the videos were posted because “they are embarrassed.”

Sophomore Paige Kupsky, who shared a video on Facebook of a rodent in Megabytes on Oct. 29, said she had never heard about rats in the cafe before seeing one while walking home. 

“I feel really bad about it being closed but I guess it’s a good thing, there shouldn’t be rats in people’s food!” Kupsky said in a Facebook message. “Originally I just posted the video because I thought it was a one time thing and it was funny, but then when I saw that the rat is there like every day, I was like okay they need to take care of this."

Gera has been in contact with multiple people who have experienced the rat problem throughout offices in the Mary Graydon Center, where Megabytes is located. Gera said he is disappointed with how the University has handled the issue as well as how he has been treated as a small business owner on campus.

The University’s lack of action on the building-wide issue has hurt Gera’s business, he said.

“This is how I make my livelihood,” Gera said. “I’m suffering the loss of customers, business, food.”

Maria Carrasco contributed reporting to this article.

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