by Kenneth Justice
~I enjoy drinking coffee (have you noticed) and I also really enjoy sitting at a café while doing so…..I’m thankful that the city I live in happens to be coffee house and café central for the region and I have more café selections to choose from than a coffee-lover deserves.
It is almost a year-to-the-date that my one of my closest friends (whom I met at a café many years ago) was not only kicked out of our favorite hang-out…..he was escorted out of the place by law enforcement and arrested for not leaving the establishment!
Here’s what happened;
–) My friend is African-American and having hung out at this particular café off-and-on for more than 10 years, he mentioned to one of the barista’s that he ‘believed the manager was racist towards black people” because in the 10 years he’d been coming; 1) there had never been any black employees and 2) the manager had always treated him poorly compared to the white customers.
–) The barista told the manager that “—– said you’re a racist” and the next time my friend came into the place, the manager walked up to him and said, “If you don’t leave I’m calling the police!”
–) My friend did not leave, “I bought this coffee and I’m a paying customer….you can’t kick me out” he declared
—) Turns out the manager could kick him out….because she called the police and within 30 minutes my friend was arrested for trespassing.
In the United States a private business has the right to kick an employee out for;
–) any reason
–) without any explanation
–) no questions asked
Of course you can try and sue an establishment for ‘racism’ or ‘prejudice’ or ‘bigotry’ but those kinds of things are difficult to win at in court because they tend to involve subjective elements that can often times be difficult to prove to a jury.
I was very bothered by the situation. This is one of my closet friends and having watched the way the manager interacted with him over the years….I too believed the manager did not like my friend; whether it was because my friend is black or not I could not say for sure. But I will say in all the years I had frequented the café I had seen a lot of people get hired and I never saw one black employee…ever.
Needless to say I stopped going to the café because if my friend couldn’t go in I was going to stand by him and not go there myself…..and then last month…..the place got bought out. A new owner closed the café down for remodeling and will be reopening soon…..I haven’t heard whether or not the new owner is going to keep on the old manager, but the sign on the door “NOW HIRING” might be predicative of new management coming.
Nonetheless, the whole situation has left me with a bittersweet feeling. I really enjoyed hanging out at the old café. Another one of our good friends used to play guitar their twice a month and on those Saturday nights the place was electric; good conversation, good music, and good coffee.
The café was a favorite spot for a lot of people because it was the kind of place that when you walked thru the door everybody knew your name;
—) Sometimes in life you want to go to a café and be left alone….to study, to write, to think, to meditate
—) But in all the other times you could go to that favorite café of ours and there was always a familiar face and a good conversation waiting for you.
For me and my friend the end-of-the-era occurred last year when he was kicked out and when I willingly chose to stop going……hey, I’ve got lots of other cafés I go to (as does my friend) so our life went on as usual.
But seeing the windows and doors boarded up on our old hangout…..feels a little sad; like an old cranky friend just died.
Coffee houses didn’t always exist. From what I understand they were created in Great Britain shortly before the colonial era and existed as places for men (it was still an anti-woman society back then) to go and read the NEWS together, talk, debate, and discuss.
During the 1960’s coffee houses experienced a big resurgence in the United States where they once again became a philosophical stomping ground for people who were looking for good friends, good conversation, and something good to drink.
Lately, it seems like a lot of cafés and coffee houses have become a bit too plastic; commercialized, formulaic, and a unique sense of individual charm is slowly fading away.
Sometimes I wonder if I am a member of a dying group; are the men and women like me who love hanging out at coffee houses becoming extinct? Sure, coffee sales worldwide are as high as ever, and with China slowly entering the fray, coffee will continue to be the main drink of humanity……..
But will the coffee house experience vanish? Sometimes I wonder…….
Time for another cup of coffee
Categories: Culture & Society