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Black Coffee Cooperative finds Capitol Hill home

Capitol Hill’s cafe culture will soon include a cooperative coffee shop. The Black Coffee Cooperative has announced it will open a “café space and infoshop” on E Pike in the former home of a cafe and head shop that went out of business earlier this year.

The cooperative has posted an invitation to see their new space and learn more about joining their collective cause:

We’ve found a space for Black Coffee on Capitol Hill, and we’re moving in right away! We’re holding a Cooperative gathering that is open to anyone and everyone who wants to join. Here’s what you’re in for if you attend:

  • Sneak Peek at the space! Be amongst the first people to see our space, before its even finished, and lend your brilliance and creativity to the development of the space.
  • Find ways to support Black Coffee! Learn about how you can support Black Coffee, now and into the future. There are wide opportunities, from becoming a worker-owner to helping us paint some walls.

  • Drink some delicious coffee! We’ll have the coffee brewin’ for this meeting, so you can be the first to get a true cup of Black Coffee.

617 E. PIKE ST. SUNDAY, JULY 8TH 6-7:30PM

CHS has reached out to the cooperative to learn more about the group and its membership. According to his LinkedIn page, Scott Davis, a former barista at Trabant Coffee, is a partner in the co-op. Blog posts on the Black Coffee site indicate a search for space on Capitol Hill starting early this year that had the cooperative considering an E Olive Way location at one point.

The 617 E Pike location was formerly home to Kiss the Sky which CHS described as “part cyber cafe, part head shop” when it went out of business in March. There are currently no construction permit applications for the location.

While we don’t know much about the group yet, it has been going about its business in an extremely transparent way. Its Twitter feed @blackcoffeecoop has been active since February and providing regular updates on the search for a space for the project. In February, Davis posted about the early vision for the project here:

Black Coffee is a worker’s cooperative recently formed with the intention to create a café space & infoshop in Seattle. We are still in the initial organizing stages.

Black Coffee Coop is committed to a non-hierarchical structure of work & a not-for-profit model of commerce. All members of the Black Coffee Cooperative will have equivalent decision-making power, and we will be organized so that all workers contribute to the inner-workings and future-workings of the cooperative. Group decisions will be made by consensus, although not all decisions will be centralized – space will be preserved for autonomous contributions to the project.

In creating the Black Coffee Cooperative, the individuals that currently comprise it hope to create a number of beneficial tools, for example:

  • a non-hierarchical workplace, where we have at least greater control of the application of our labor, and the pains of worker-exploitation are reduced.
  • a “safer-space,” for those who don’t feel safe in streets patrolled by police, or amongst a public dotted with prejudice. This “safer-space” also extends to those who are concerned about repression of their political organizing efforts.
  • a new info-shop and mini-library, with a future goal of providing the public with DIY copying/printing services.
  • a physical space for events, meetings, or just drinking a brew with comrades.
  •  vegetarian & vegan grub + vegan-style coffee & tea (no dairy) + beer
  • It’s been a busy few weeks for coffee news on Capitol Hill. Last week, El Portal cafe and roastery opened at 23rd and Madison. CHS also reported that the Central District’s Broadcast Coffee would be opening a Capitol Hill location later this summer. Meanwhile, Kaladi Brothers will unveil a new cafe space on E Pike later this year.

    While the rents in the area may not be ideal for a cooperative venture, the Black Coffee project captures at least two active currents of Capitol Hill culture in the strength of the area’s cafes and a revival of more radical politics. In other words, the project should be right at home on E Pike.

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    calhoun
    10 years ago

    From the looks of their logo, it appears this is an anarchist group. They do not deserve anyone’s support.

    Feedback
    10 years ago

    So the persons behind Black Coffee Cooperative “don’t feel safe in streets patrolled by police,” but they won’t serve meat or let me have milk in my coffee. At least the cops let me eat what I want!

    Anarchy Coffee
    10 years ago

    If I protest out front, will you call police? Or just threaten my right of free speech with physical violence yourselves?

    impressed
    10 years ago

    Wow, what a terribly deep and thoughtful analysis. How observant of you to notice a circle around that A. Remind me again, what do you know about anarchism? or this coop?

    everyones your servant?

    why do you need other people to serve you meat and pour your milk? figure your own life out! no coffee shop is going to stop you from doing what you want, they’re just not going to feed you your daily steak.

    really impressed
    10 years ago

    oh thats good, i get it! ha….ha….

    Truly Scrumptious
    10 years ago

    It’s a good thing this cafe is opening, because (if the comments above are any indication) people seem to be seriously clueless! Maybe they’ll open their minds and hearts and come inside, once you’re open, to educate themselves. It stunning they feel so threatened by a not-for-profit vegan coffee shop! I, for one, welcome the cafe and the “revival of more radical politics” because we Seattlites sure have gone a little soft and complacent. I look forward to having a space for such discussions, even with naysayers like some of these commenters. I hope to help contribute to the development of the space here and there, as my schedule allows, but even if not, I’ll come get my coffee from you when I’m in the area.

    JamieEi
    10 years ago

    @impressed: Are you denying that they have an anarchist logo or saying that you think anarchism is cool? Wikipedia and the interwebs disagree about point 1. I would think that point 2 is self-evidently false, but you haven’t given much thoughtful analysis of your own to argue with.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_symbolism

    Scott Davis
    10 years ago

    Hey all! Scott Davis here, the partner mentioned in article here. I’d like to send my love out to my 3 fellow worker-owners, and the dozens of beautiful people that have lent their energy and ideas to this coop thus far.

    It’s sad to see all the really shallow comments here (maybe not surprising tho), but so beautiful to see this fair and encouraging writeup on CHS! Thanks to the writers/editors for promoting our project.

    I’d like to clear up a few things that were mucked up by the commenters.

    First of all, we couldn’t even be an anarchist group if we wanted to be. I can speak for all the original worker-owners that we all identify as anarchists (amongst other identities), which is certainly the philosophy that inspires having a workplace without bosses. However, we are unfortunately engaging in a very status-quo style of commerce, and we will be engaging with so much of the business market that any “anarchish” elements of our coop are, in economic effect, drowned out by the larger framework of Capitalism.

    Even more so, the Law requires all businesses to have distinct owners, which forces us to actually divide ownership of this cafe (for example, 4 original worker owners each own 25%) into separate little selfish chunks. This makes it incredibly difficult to actually hold the business and its’ capital in common. So not only are we working in a framework of capitalism, we are mostly shifting and obscuring its legal demands to make something that is closer to the non-hierarchical model of work that we want to create for ourselves. Figuring out how to divide ownership and account for its risks has been one of the most complicated and agonizing aspects of forming this coop.

    That being said, one of the underlying reasons for pouring my life into helping create this cooperative is a chance to create something distinct from our current model of work, even if its not “ideal”. For one, I desire to carve out a space where I can work, passionately, and be compensated with the needs I have for survival for me and my loved ones. On the other hand, I hope that the Black Coffee Coop will be a reminder to all workers that we CAN own our work and workplaces. It can be done – si se puede. It takes a heavy dose of boldness, creativity, patience, willingness to put up with bureaucracy, but it can create tangible spaces that contrast to the current mode of selling yourself to a boss in exchange for a wage. We aren’t the first to do this, but the cooperative movement needs a dose creativity and activity so that it may challenge hierarchical institutions once again.

    To clear up the comment about milk & meat – shame on you for disrespecting those who are unsafe in the streets. Shame on you for holding up your “right to eat meat” above the dignity of others struggling for safety on the street. Your comment hardly makes sense, but is too disrespectful to be ignored.
    For others, I would like to clear up that we are once again considering offering dairy milk with coffee – if we did, it would be from a dairy that raises its cows on pastures, not GMO corn or soy (like FreshBreeze). Part of this decision is in thinking about how small scale pasture dairy farms are probably less harmful than monocrop soy farms used to produce soy milk.

    I hope that Black Coffee will be a place that folks living on and visiting Capitol Hill can holistically enjoy; from the delicious coffee and carefully-sourced products, to the inspiration of a different model of workplace, to the knowledge imparted by local independent literature.

    Please come join us on Sunday July 8th, and again in the future when we officially open our doors! I look forward to making you a cup of Black Coffee!!

    SeattleSeven
    10 years ago

    Working for and managing people in a giant evil corporation, I’m always intrigued by the all-equals, no one is in charge type structures. I know workers do get exploited, but I’ve seen my fair share of workers exploiting their employer as well.

    For all the naysayers… would you rather have another (insert giant chain retail store here) moving in?

    One question though… How does a structure like this map to forming a non-profit corporation, signing leases, obtaining a liquor license, etc? Don’t those systems sort of force a hierarchy of decision makers to some extent? (EDIT: looks like they answered my question while I was typing it)

    Feedback
    10 years ago

    Why serve me anything, then?

    Seferiana
    10 years ago

    This is very exciting. I have barista skills I would love to put to use!! <3

    Nonvegan Anarchist
    10 years ago

    I really do suggest opting for offering milk. You will seriously cut down on your market if you cater only to vegans or omnivores willing to do the vegan thing to support your spot (which I would, but I’d be annoyed). I want this place to succeed but it will be a lot more difficult if you focus too much on veganism. Your point about small pasture dairy farms vs. soy mono cropping is a really good one.

    If you do decide not to offer dairy, at least PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t advertise as a vegan cafe. Label your milks obviously, but don’t make this a vegan lifestyle center.

    word
    10 years ago

    in purely practical terms, cow milk presents many problems, but soy milk (or rice/almond/coconut), don’t really offer a “better” option. i like the way that chaco canyon does their coffee — all milk options cost the same amount instead of the default being cow milk.

    and, there’s many reasons that the red & black is floundering, but at least part of it is the vegan superiority.

    obert
    10 years ago

    You really call yourself a journalist, and the best you can respond to someone’s asking what you know about anarchism is by informing them that “Wikipedia and the interwebs” says their logo includes an anarchist symbol? No one other than you thought that was the question. Nevertheless, you’ve indirectly answered it with your evident and willful naivete.

    Either make an effort to self-educate (like, say, by coming to (A) spaces and engaging people in conversation and reading), or stay a moron for all to see.

    philanthropy
    10 years ago

    You don’t feel “safe” because they won’t serve meat or milk…. Fascinating. By that standard, you feel safe in 90% of places where other people don’t. And yet I’ve never heard a fellow vegan gripe about feeling “unsafe” in the Coop or something because it sells meat.

    Cop.

    Bethundra
    10 years ago

    You’re trolling, right? Do you also get angry with pizza places for not serving you sushi? Let people serve what they want to serve. If you don’t like it then don’t go there. Problem solved.

    Truly Scrumptious
    10 years ago

    Oh, please don’t offer dairy. People who insist on dairy (seriously?) have the other 99.9% of businesses to choose from. They can go ANYwhere to get cowmilk, while vegans have few safe spaces (free of contamination worry, miscommunication, etc). While I come from a perspective that animal oppression is closely tied to human oppression, even outside of that political stance there are several good reasons to opt out. I suppose it’s really too big of a debate to sort out here in the comments section, so I would like to suggest that you converse with the *successful* vegan businesses right here in Seattle to help inform your decision, especially Wayward (having grown out of a worker’s collective) and Sidecar, but also Pizza Pi, Highline, Sage/Plum/Hillside, among others. Remember: everyone can eat a vegan place. (Whether they want to throw a tantrum about it is another thing.)

    Glasses
    10 years ago

    This is right round the corner from where I live and on my way to work. I’m not vegan, but I drink my coffee hot and black, so I don’t need no stinkin’ milk! And vegan treats aer always delicious.

    People can be such a bummer sometimes. I am 100% excited to support a worker’s collective, this sounds amazing and I will shift all my coffee drinking to you guys BECAUSE of your ideals. I will encourage my friends to do the same. I’m not even an anarchist, but I’d rather be an anarchist than a status-quo jerk!

    Love,
    You new biggest fan Liz

    Ryan in the sky
    10 years ago

    It’s about time for a vegan coffee shop. I can’t wait for them to open!

    benjammin509
    10 years ago

    I like that corner and I think the spot is good. Looking forward to see what you do with it.

    A
    A
    10 years ago

    As you said, Wayward “grew out” of a cooperative model. They aren’t anymore and neither are any of those other vegan businesses you mentioned. Wayward probably had to lose the whole horizontal model because they couldn’t turn a profit otherwise. If the point is to run cooperatively and keep the space open, my guess is that the whole vegan thing ain’t gonna work out. The vegan cooperative Red & Black Cafe in Portland (which someone else mentioned) provides a great example of failure, unfortunately. If a vegan cafe can’t pull through in that city, I don’t know if it will fare very well here in the cafeborhood.

    I’m with the poster who said that non-dairy milks aren’t usually much of a “better” alternative to dairy milk. Deforestation and monoculture and pesticides and run-off are all problems resulting from the agricultural and dairy industries. Coconut milk from plantations thousands of miles away is much more ecologically harmful (and… animals) than a small, local dairy farm with the most ecologically sound practices. I realize that coconut milk is not the only dairy-alternative but the same could be said of most any other substitute. Now, when comparing local dairy and non-dairy milks… that would be a more interesting conversation.

    But basically, none of this really fucking matters, because “voting with your dollar” is bullshit and nothing short of full-blown insurrection will stop this suicidal death machine from pumping poison into what remains of the natural world…

    That’s why we need The Black Coffee Coop, so more people can mingle together and get hip to the sad facts. I’d rather it didn’t tank after 3 months due to vegan fundamentalism.

    Jane
    10 years ago

    I think that the Black Coffee Cooperative comes from a group of really interesting people, that aren’t just interested in profit but interested in engaging with the existing system in a sustainable way, like Scott mentioned. E Olive Way seems like a wonderful spot and this coffee space will totally contribute to the vibrant Capitol Hill culture. Can’t wait!!

    zeebleoop
    10 years ago

    @obert

    who from the above comment string called themselves a journalist? you do understand what a blog is right? before calling someone a moron maybe you should make an effort to “self-educate.”

    Ian Awesome
    10 years ago

    You’re right! Anarchist groups who want to serve ethical coffee while sharing decisions among the entirety of the working members of the shop? Horrible people!

    (A)

    Ian Awesome
    10 years ago

    The Grand Legion of Incendiary and Tenacious Unicorn Revolutionaries all seem super excited to see BCC get their own space! Yay!

    Pete
    10 years ago

    To the folks that responded with blithe humor or shotgun criticisms: what do you gain from doing this? What does anyone gain?

    Why immediately discount BCC for “appearing” anarchist, when surely your judgments constitute at best a very shallow understanding, but more likely a fundamental misunderstanding of anarchism and radical politics? I think you’d have a lot to gain from having an authentic conversation about what beliefs and ideologies motivated their decision to establish a worker-owned cooperative.

    I, for one, think this is such an important step in the right direction for Seattle’s coffee culture. There’s a lot of awareness around the ethics of coffee in terms of how farmers are paid and treated, but I think there’s a stark lack of awareness around the domestic business models of cafes. Baristsas grind out so much work and produce so much wealth, but see none of the profit and make none of the business decisions. I think Black Coffee Coop is a groundbreaking step towards sowing the seeds for a society with truly just and equitable workplaces.

    Dustin
    10 years ago

    New to the internet I see…

    umvue
    10 years ago

    Just lacking the tax exemption.

    calhoun
    10 years ago

    I have no problem with the business model, as a co-op…that’s fine if you want to go that route.

    But what most people would like to know is this: Do you (the owners) support/condone all the anarchist vandalism/violence that has gone on in our neighborhood the past few years? Will you be a place where such groups can meet and plan further actions?

    Glasses
    10 years ago

    You’re a real creep.

    I hope you walk around with a big name tag that says ‘Calhoun from CHS’ so I can know to avoid YOU.

    KarlWalther
    10 years ago

    I wish you luck on your business venture, you seem to have things thought out and have a reasonable. However Seattle anarchist have burned a lot of bridges over the past few years and stand as one of the worst examples or “anarchist” that I have come across in my travels.

    Please keep the place clean and not have it become a blight on the neighborhood like so many other “anarchist” projects in the last few years.

    calhoun
    10 years ago

    At least I don’t resort to name-calling, as you do, in a feeble attempt to discredit someone’s opinion.

    The questions I asked are legitimate ones.

    JT
    JT
    10 years ago

    Those are legitimate questions. Black Coffee Cooperative is a business, and just as any business, they would not invite (conspire with) individuals to plan vandalism. So, I’d say without intended offense, it’s a rather unnecessary, perhaps adverse question (even over the internet it’s difficult to misread your tone).
    Regarding whether they condone vandalism, I’m sure a proper answer depends on the individual asked, and not the cooperative, which just as any business, does not condone or condemn vandalism. The reason simply being that businesses do not have opinions, they have models, products, customers, workers, and profits. That is all Black Coffee Cooperative will have.
    Calhoun, is not an anarchist. It is a business started by anarchists, for everyone. I hope you’ll have a cup of coffee there, and meet the folks you’ve stated do not deserve anyone’s support. The workers there are only trying to make their workplace an empowering and safer place. Is that so controversial?
    I’ve found myself many times desiring the same thing, and I’ve heard many fellow workers cursing work and bosses, their attitudes would suggest to me a need for more cooperative workplaces.

    JT
    JT
    10 years ago

    Line 8 should read “Calhoun, Black Coffee Cooperative is not an anarchist.”

    obert
    10 years ago

    Calhoun has posted stories here and they and JamieEl both have accounts. News site blogging is journalism 2.0, bro. Unless you want to hurt JSeattle’s feelings.