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Eateries seek to serve with a swipe

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 7:19 p.m.

Seton Hill University students and Greensburg restaurants would benefit if the students could use an access card, similar to a debit card, to buy food in the city, business leaders and others said.

“It should have been done from day one,” said Lisa Hegedus, owner of Caffé Barista on West Otterman Street. “It's ultimately a win-win for everyone.”

Under a “Flex” progam, preloaded money is placed into a student's account on a university identification card so it can be spent at two dining facilities on the Greensburg campus. Funds are deducted via the card with each purchase.

If the cards could be used at city eateries, “I think it would be awesome for a lot of businesses in town,” said Rachel Flowers, owner of Sun Dawg Cafe on North Main Street. “I think it would generate business.”

During a recent council meeting, James Albert asked officials whether they might help encourage Seton Hill officials to allow the card to be used at city restaurants.

Many other universities and colleges have set up arrangements so their students can use similar cards at restaurants and other establishments, Albert said.

“I think it would benefit the restaurants in the town and the students,” added Albert, who said he was speaking as a Greensburg resident and not in his official capacity as a district judge.

Albert formerly operated Doe's East Coast Dogs in the Stark Building in the city. Charlie's restaurant took over where Doe's had operated for about three years before closing.

Mayor Ron Silvis told Albert he likes the idea of students having the option of using the card.

In an interview this week, Silvis said university officials would need to set up a special system so the cards could be used at Greensburg restaurants, and that may pose a stumbling block.

“Somebody needs to pay the bill” for the installation and maintenance of the system, he said.

Costs to set up the system could not be immediately determined.

Students at the Seton Hill Performing Arts Center downtown now must return to campus if they want to use the card, Hegedus said.

“That makes no sense,” she said.

Caffé Barista tailored part of its menu to satisfy the palates of students, Hegedus said.

Many students spend their entire school day downtown in the arts center in the heart of Greensburg, Albert said. More students will be coming into the city when the soon-to-be-constructed visual arts center is finished downtown, he said.

In an emailed statement, Seton Hill university officials said they would consider the suggestion, as they have other recommendations, but could make no commitment.

“The university is always looking for a way to engage the Greensburg business community in a positive way,” it said. “We have in the past explored the use of flex dollars by Seton Hill students at local restaurants and merchants.

“We will continue to investigate such a program and would consider implementing it as long as it would be mutually beneficial to both the university and the businesses,” the statement said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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