Death of a cranky friend……

something like that....really

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

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31 replies

  1. There is a coffee house near our University that is thriving as a unique venue for displaying and performing art. There are regular poetry readings and music. The young students are catching the bug of having a unique local hangout. Downtown we have Java Joes. It is a rainbow of “types” and really great coffee. The people do make the place. Racists and homophobes run businesses. Making a statement by not frequenting places that hire them is our only recourse. Unless an applicant wanted to lodge some complaint it would hardly ever be documented. Wow, I have always liked my coffee dark and my people friendly.

  2. For the record, I think you were totally right to back up your friend, wish more people were like you, strong and bound to their convictions, good on you!

  3. when I was younger and living in the city I use to frequent coffee houses and cafes mostly to write by also for a period to recite my poetry as coffee houses in Toronto were experimenting with Spoken Word to drum up evening business… when I went back to Toronto a few years ago I noticed a number of those cafes had closed… the big chains still thrived but the little ones had fallen by the wayside… this did sadden me and it felt like I had lost friends…even though they were only brick and stick, they were still so much more comfortable and personable than the bigbox coffee shops like Starbucks…

    • Yup, I’m actually sitting in starbucks at the moment, while I like it here better than being at mcdonalds…..I have always proffered independently owned places because they have more charm, usually are more open to music and poetry, and the owners are usually pretty cool

  4. Common gatherings, in order to exchange news and ideas were common since the ancient times. The greek word Symposium, (=drink together), describes exactly this. Of course in the ancient times coffee was not yet introduced and it was mainly wine, but I guess most of the times “going out for a coffee” is just a way of saying I am going out to talk with a friend. Who might as well drink tea or whatever. I, too, avoid places that managers treat people with arrogance, but the one you mention is way out!

    • I did not know that about the word symposium! And your spot on “going to coffee” means more than just coffee, heck, u could say I’m going to coffee but you really end up drinking tea…’s all about people and community

  5. In the UK pub landlords have the right to exclude anyone they like. Pubs are private businesses and publicans, like all property owners, have the right to determine who can come onto their premises or not, and the same applies to the managers of coffee shops. On a rowdy night it is not uncommon to hear the Landlord shout out to a certain individual ‘you’re banned’!
    I must admit that I am slightly taken aback by your friend’s assumption that because there have never been any black employees (so far) and that because he thinks the barista and manager don’t like him that they are therefore racist. Maybe they are, or maybe they just don’t like him. Are you suggesting that every coffee shop should employ at least one person of colour regardless of ability, just to prove that they are NOT racist? Its a moot point don’t you think?

    • No, I’m not suggesting that every coffee house needs to employ every imaginable race. But there are a few details I had to leave out of the article in order to preserve the identity of everyone involved in the situation. Suffice to say, my friend was clearly treated differently than the other white customers, and also, our area is one of the highest percentages of african Americans in all of the U.S. and to go more than a decade w/o ever having hired even one African American is highly peculiar.

  6. It is like wishing back the gentleman clubs as they were called. And yes ladies you would be welcome to. The trend is bushiness. fast in and out. No need for relaxation. pick up and go to work or home. It is a shame that places where you can be served as a king are a dying breed.
    yes i believe there was a time we called our costumers kings and treated them like that. Sure in our minds we always said ‘and we are emperor’ But that is not an issue. It is all to rushing for me those fast coffee houses. like fast food restaurants. Give me money and get lost kind of emperials

    • Part of the problem is the cost of rent; to own a coffee house on a busy drag (whether your an independent coffee house or whether you’re Starbucks) is just so damn high. One of the Starbucks that I frequent pays more than fourteen grand a month in rent alone! If there was some kind of rent control it would allow places to not have to be so fast food designed

  7. I miss the old coffee house days. There is a place that is trying to be an old-fashioned coffee house here but I have no opportunity, or money, to frequent it. I understand there are almost no youngish people who go there.

  8. No Kenny, I don’t think you’re part of a dying breed. I to, enjoy coffee house atmosphere. There used to be one place,Coffee Klatch that I loved to hang out in; one of my family’s friends used to play there, but he’s moved on to bigger and better things. I think the commercialization of coffee houses is the same commercialization we see in other areas, like the huge super stores, vs traditional department stores like Sears and Macys. I don’t like it one bit, but I guess it’s one of those downsides of modern life, in our culture that’s always consumed with money and profit. -_- An now I am going to have a second dose of caffeine!

  9. It’s the same with jobs to. Sure, employer’s aren’t supposed to hire one race over another, for example. But unless they out right say “I’m not hiring you because you are black/white or whatever”, they can still deny you employment by just saying “oh you weren’t qualified”. It’s hard to prove.

    • Yup, we are on the same page……ageism is also difficult to prove, a friend of mine recently got turned down for a position and I believe it was because he was forty, the person the company hired was 26 (happened to be a different friend of mine!’ and the 26 year old was much less qualified

  10. If your friend thought this establishment or at least the manager was racist, why was he a customer there for 10 years?

  11. I spent the late sixties in west coast coffee houses . . . open mike and reams of bullshit from all directions . . . went to one a few years back and it basically sucked compared to the earlier models.

    Now I live in the woods and gab on the web . . . no comparison to the glory days of the coffee houses either.

  12. There are more places that communities have gathered and do gather still: the bookstore, the barbershop, the post office, the diner, and so on. And I do think that all of these places have been threatened by “big box” chain store efficiency and corporate culture.

    I have many, many thoughts but it would be rude of me to list them all here. I should like to save myself a reminder with this comment, if I may. When I’ve had a proper night’s sleep I should like to write up a post with some of these thoughts and memories, and I shall link back (and pingback) to this one. Racism and other prejudice would fill up another post, which shall have to be for another time.

  13. Mmmmmm Coffee, I to must write about it.

  14. Long live coffee houses. Down with racism!

  15. We live in the south where there are only a few oasis of coffee and literary life (not that I am truly literate). Since I think, or write, best with a glass of wine and something to nibble on, any dark corner will do but I prefer Montreal, 13 driving hours away, several times a year, the Plateau. Cheap, close, exotic, quirky. It lets me see things from a different perspective. That’s why we go to these places, isn’t it.

  16. Sad………for coffee lovers. I get insomniac when I drink coffee

  17. Too bad about the commercialism of your big chains. Whele visiting relatives back east, I went to NYC to catch a Broadway show. Somehow the site of a Starbucks at every other intersection (I might be exaggerating, but it sure seemed that way) was quite a turn off. Thanx for visiting my blog and have a wonderful day.

  18. Thank you for the visit! a great story. There are plenty of coffee houses … friends ~~ good or great ones ..not so much

  19. Kenneth, Thanks for sharing and for sticking up for your friend.
    Here’s to Your Health!


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