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Posted on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Au Bon Pain and Starbucks coming to U-M Union as University Club prepares to close

By Ben Freed

The University Club, which first opened in the Michigan Union in 1937, will close its doors for good Aug. 13. The club will be replaced by Au Bon Pain, a cafe and bakery with approximately 315 locations worldwide.


The University Club at the Michigan Student Union will close to make way for an Au Bon Pain.

Angela Cesere |

A Starbucks also will open in the union in the space traditionally used as a coffee cafe area. Both locations will undergo remodeling later this summer and the cafes are anticipated to open in the middle of the fall semester.

“Our selection committee was very impressed with both Au Bon Pain and Starbucks,” Susan Pile, the director of the Michigan Union. said in a statement.

“Both are a good fit with the broad range of students and others who visit the Union each day.”

The union has been undergoing renovations to its ground floor level throughout the summer. Vendors on that level, which include Ahmo’s Mediterranean Grill, Panda Express, Subway, Freshens and Wendy’s, are expected to open later in the summer.

The Michigan Union said in a press release the Au Bon Pain will be open the same hours the union is open, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday. The University Club only has been open for lunch for a number of years.

According to its website, the University Club began as a faculty club that included a billiards room and a two-story lounge and adjoining library. In 1970, the club reinvented itself as a “members-only” dining room and bar but continued to have trouble attracting membership due to high fees.

The “U-Club” became a nightclub frequented in the 1980s after membership fees were eliminated for University of Michigan students. Its popularity was enhanced by the fact it allowed entrance to students under 21 years old.

Pile said in the release the U-Club has struggled to capture a wide audience and remain financially viable for the university. The club stopped serving alcohol and became a lunch-only establishment in the 1990s.

Plans for the remodeling done by Au Bon Pain to the U-Club space will include a performance area for music and other presentations, according to the press release.

The new cafe will be Au Bon Pain’s second location in Michigan, joining a franchise in the Renaissance Center in Detroit. The Starbucks will be the tenth in the Ann Arbor area, and the fourth in the city’s downtown joining locations on Main Street, State Street and South University Avenue.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Phel Meyer

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

As a recent graduate, I consider this a huge loss for the university. I will also add that the staff at the University Club was ahead of its time, agreeing to pilot (and continue) the Go Blue Box reusable takeout container program for its customers. Their actions alone have led to the diversion of 5,000+ containers from the landfill. Let's hope the management of the incoming companies is as progressive and open-minded as those that are outgoing.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

How unimaginative and typical of the corporatization of UM. This town (and UM students) deserve better than more chain restaurants serving processed crap.

Ben Freed

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Just to clarify a couple of things that people have had questions about via a University of Michigan spokesperson: 1) The Starbucks will be in the space that was formerly Amer's Delicatessen. 2) All U-Club employees will be offered other positions within the Michigan Union.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

We don't know about the U-club fees, before our time. But we do recall having lunch there as staff members on central campus, and it was a nice setting with mediocre food. Too bad the university can't sustain such a nice setting for a lunch without resorting to chains. Not every square foot of the campus should be considered "high profit revenue generating." Some spaces should be maintained for the benefit of employees, even if it's not a big "money maker." There are plenty of fast food chains in the state street area and also in the basement of the Union.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

I seem to recall about $50/year in the seventies - that was more money then, but still manageable. Anyone else remember this?


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

The food has gone downhill over the decades. However everything in Union and League is now fast food and focused on students. What about university staff and visitors?What about pleasant atmosphere ( the basement of the League is atrocious). I hope the permanent staff are given some other jobs and are not laid off.

Julia Mattucci-Clark

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 6:07 a.m.

So sad to hear the U Club is closing, went there for lunch many days as an employee at U of M mid to late 90;s, great salad bar, buffet and friendly staff.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 5:52 a.m.

I used to DJ a 'New Music Fridays' there in the late 80's and there was also a good Reggae night on Saturdays. Sad to see it go the way of so many other things. If the weather was nice we would set up out in the courtyards. Memories...


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:43 a.m.

Hope they are not going to use Vendini fro processing credit card charges....

Jojo B

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

Sad to see the U Club go but it's a far cry from what it used to be. Last went there for lunch a month ago and left because the buffet and menu had nothing that really appealed to me that day. Au Bon Pain is more popular along the east coast. It's Panara-ish and add a Starbucks and you have some pretty generic stuff going on. Not that this is really that bad, but it's hardly inspired.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 1:26 a.m.

It is really a shame that the UM decided to replace local businesses (e.g Amers) and the UClub with these large corporate chains that serve food product rather than real food. I am a faculty member and I enjoyed taking my student assistants the UClub for an annual celebration. It was also a nice place to have a meeting with colleagues over lunch. I know that Au Bon Pain won't be a good replacement for that kind of environment.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 12:22 a.m.

I did not realize that the U-Club was still around, sad to hear it is going away. Yes Tom, Reggie nights were outstanding, afternoon happy hours were good. This brings back memories of summer night in the pool hall, queasy smuggling in beers to the billiards hall, smoking cigars, yes it was oaky back then, in the union. Going further back, bowling in the basement of the Union. Those were the days.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind... WW


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Shoot, now you made Arborani cry.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

The U-club was a gem when it served alcohol and you could have drinks out on the patio area, and watch concerts. The billiard rooms were also great. The atmosphere and decor felt very timeless. It is a sad day when they are sold out to chain stores.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

I thought the Subway and Wendy's were being replaced at the Union?


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Nope, both the Subway and Wendy's are being expanded and Ahmo's is being added. See this story in the Michigan Daily


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

FINALLY, someplace I can get a cup of coffee in this town!


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

"FINALLY, someplace I can get a cup of coffee in this town!" That's hilarious.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

This is so disappointing. I eat lunch at the UClub at least once a week, sometimes more. They have the best salad bar in town with so much variation, the price is reasonable, and the Union has wonderful spots to sit and eat. The staff is always friendly and they care about their food. They work hard to provide a variety of tasty options and are able to work with their catering department to try out new items. The Go Blue Box ( was a great way to provide a reusable takeout container option. I feel especially sorry for the people who work there who are losing their jobs. After the League dining room closed down and the UClub went to only lunches, the writing was probably on the wall. Too bad they couldn't make a go of it.

Ben Freed

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Julie, I understand your disappointment, but as for the employees, they will be offered other employment at the Union.

David Paris

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

Ya know, I've lived here for a while now. I eat out often, but I didn't even know about this place. I've been to Amer's, and the food court down stairs, but never the U Club. So sad to this this kind of mismanagement resulting in mediocracy.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.



Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

Where will the elite now meet to eat?

Rob MI

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

The same place they always did: Duffy's Tavern (too obscure??)


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Sava's, where they've been meeting for the last few years ;)


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Starbucks sells coffee and pastries, and sandwiches now I hear. Au Bon Pain serves coffee and pastries, and sandwiches...


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Does this mean that Starbucks will go in the place where Amer's was? Is that what this refers to: ... space traditionally used as a coffee cafe area ... ?


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Thanks, Ben!

Ben Freed

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

Yes, the Starbucks will be in the former Amer's space.

Ben Freed

Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

talbots, I'm working on figuring that out. It would appear at first glance that it is but I'm waiting to hear back from the UM officials. Sorry for the delay.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Ben Freed - can you answer this?


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

I was wondering the same thing. If so, that's very unfortunate.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

The U-Club? Umm...I remember dancing barefooted with a pretty girl in the courtyard during a summer downpour to that "Free Nelson Mandela" ska tune... (sigh)...I'm old.

Bertha Venation

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

We had Au Bon Pain when I lived in Boston. They have nice, reasonably priced breakfast pastries. Be careful with their sandwiches that contain mayonaise, though. They seem to leave the filling out, and I got chased down the street by Ms. Dinah Rheena.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

A Starbucks in the Michigan Union at State and South U? In addition to the one at South U. and Church, State and Liberty, and Liberty and Main? The only thing more overkill than that was when Twelve Oaks had three in the mall and then there was one right across the street.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 8:30 a.m.

Don't forget about the Law School's Kirkland & Ellis cafe across the street, featuring Starbucks.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

It's a rhetorical point, more of a commentary on how ubiquitous it is versus any other I've seen. Far from complaining, I patronize Starbucks every day. Doing it right now. *sip* I'm just amazed at how many there are in a given radius than say a McDonald's or a gas station of the same brand.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

Why is that overkill? If a person is in the union are they likely to leave and go to State and Liberty to get a coffee? They are more likely to go to a competitor in the Union, or pass on coffee and get it from Ahmo's or another vendor The problem most people have is they do not realize Starbucks is like a vending machine. IF it is there, they will buy, if it is CONVENIENT they will buy, if not it is ok. I bet if you look, there are more vending machines in that radius than there are Starbucks

Ben Freed

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Anyone out there have memories from the U-Club? I hear it was a popular spot and had a weekly reggae night back in the day.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

It also had new-music night in the mid 80s.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

Frequented the reggae nights there. They used to bring the dj's outdoors in the atrium in summer. It was a great place to be on a summer night.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

It was a neat place to go for lunch.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

That was our favorite Happy Hour spot for a while in the '80s.

Chip Reed

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

I used to run a jazz jam session there in the late 70's and early 80's for the Eclipse Jazz student group.