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Coffee co-op hopes balance of rules, responsibility will help it keep place on Hill

IMG_4481Sunday, E Pine’s only anarchist-friendly cafe collective, Black Coffee Co-op, hosted a Punk Prom. Predictably, it was a little noisy and ran late into the night. And, predictably, neighbors in nearby apartment buildings and businesses weren’t happy about it. But one of Black Coffee’s four founding worker-owners tells CHS that the co-op has charted a new course to be better neighbors and, yes, even implement “policy” as their experiment in community-minded business continues.

“Word had gotten out that you won’t be kicked out. People were coming in to just hang out,” Black Coffee’s Scott Davis tells CHS about complaints in recent months that the co-op wasn’t doing enough to stop blatant drug use in its bathrooms and was becoming a hangout for thugs and criminals.

East Precinct commander Capt. Ron Wilson confirmed the complaints but declined to provide specifics of any investigations related to the coffee shop:

All I can share with you at this time is that over the past several weeks we have received several complaints about activity at Black Coffee. Some of the complaints deal with City and State code and/or regulation compliance issues, while some deal with public safety issues.

We are sharing the complaints we receive with other city and state departments that may have responsibility/jurisdiction for non-police issues. Any allegations of illegal activity will always be fully investigated.

CHS’s message to Black Coffee’s landlord, Capitol Hill real estate investor Ron Amundson, has not yet been returned.

IMG_4458 IMG_4455 The complaints about Black Coffee were being lodged in the area since well before this year’s May Day when vandals busted glass at three Capitol Hill businesses after a day of rallies and protests. Black Coffee was closed that day so, as Davis put it, the workers could be part of the day’s celebrations and activities. There was a private “after party” event at the cafe. Davis says, despite the party, Black Coffee was not some kind of anarchist training ground or headquarters on the day.

“I love un-permitted marches in the street that stop traffic,” Davis who marched and was part of the protests said. “I thought it was super unfortunate that Bill’s window got broken. We are not a Black Bloc training ground.”

Black Coffee opened last year on E Pine in the building formerly home to Travelers — itself a counterculture-friendly hangout of a different ilk. It has settled in as a busy, interesting place to spend time and grab a coffee or tea while reading, working or debating social theory. Its anarchist and social leanings shape the space from the lending library to the black flags that fly above the cafe’s large E Pine windows. Meanwhile, commerce is underway with credit cards and cash part of the exchange as mugs are filled and re-filled.

The original group of four worker-owners has expanded to five and Black Coffee has grown already to be one of the headquarters of alternative culture and politics in the area. The space is frequently transformed into a meeting hall or performance space. In its six months on E Pine, Davis estimates Black Coffee has hosted more than 150 events and meetings.

“We didn’t set out to be a venue,” Davis says of the demand for the space. The group has already moved to cut back on how the cafe can be used and when, he says, and is limiting music performance to events tied to fundraisers and third parties.

Davis says rules around performances and how the cafe is managed have been part of a necessary evolution for a project with members wanting to cleve closely to social ideals while maintaining a functioning business.

“It wasn’t what we wanted,” Davis said of some of the troubles Black Coffee began having with the hang-out crowd.

Davis also said it was “eye opening” for him to experience just “how big the homeless population” around Capitol Hill is.

At first, Black Coffee attempted to solve things purely through community.

“Signs went up,” Davis said. “We wanted to resolve this as a collective.”

As complaints continued, the group discovered it was going to take more. Black Coffee resorted to the bane of any good anarchist.

“We did come up with a policy,” Davis said. “Zero tolerance for sexual behavior. Zero tolerance for intoxication.”

The result, he says, is a collective Black Coffee that can function — and serve its community — in the middle of busy, densely populated E Pine.

Still, he knows Black Coffee faces major challenges when it comes to fitting in — even on tolerant Capitol Hill.

“The landlord will never get a call that says hey thanks for leasing to these guys,” Davis said.

But he adds that he’s serious about making it work and is proud that the shop has been able to pay its rent in its first six months of business.

“This is my livelihood, something I’ve poured my whole life into,” Davis said.


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149 thoughts on “Coffee co-op hopes balance of rules, responsibility will help it keep place on Hill

    • That is an inaccurate and unfair characterization. This has been achieved through their own hard work and sweat.

      • Baby Adults are the norm around Capitol Hill. You think all these people in their fancy homes earned the money to buy them? Haha.

      • Who wants to know the real answer?

        Start up LOANS from family & friends along with a very small scale IndieGoGo campaign created all the startup funds for this very lean business. If you have ever tried opening a first-time small business, good luck getting loans anywhere else besides family & friends.

        There is no open line of money, so there is in fact no money to be drying up. Every single month of rent since the very first has been paid for with revenue from the cafe itself.

        Hard to believe that some anarchists could be so good at running a business, i know!

      • Revenue? Like Sunday’s event they posted on Facebook saying they are struggling to make rent. Yet they said 100% of revenue was going towards the people “kidnapped” and injured by police. Sounds like stealing to me. Did this event have the right permit to throw a fundraiser? So we as a public can see that donated money went to the fundraiser or to rent?

      • “100% of revenue was going towards the people “kidnapped” and injured by police”
        I’m sorry, this idea had me laughing at first. SPD arrests law breakers, But then when you apply this to the Fed level with DHS. Yeah, I could see that.

      • Your statement that rent is paid with café revenues is very carefully worded. Rent is only one aspect of running a business. Presumably, all the other expenses are paid by “loans from family and friends.” This is not a sustainable business practice. Eventually those loans will come due.

  1. Black Coffee is great. With Online gone and Bauhaus leaving, it will be great to have a late-night option on the hill. With vegan sammies!

    Maybe if the rest of the block (mainly across the street) wasn’t completely dead and lifeless (limp, barren, sad) and had more going on, Black Coffee wouldn’t seem like such an outlier.

    Glad to have them in the neighborhood!

    • Thank goodness that they have concerned citizens across the street. Otherwise they would have to explain why a possible death could have occurred if it wasn’t for a neighbor that called saving someone from over dosing in front of their café. Instead the owners stood their watching and saying “we got this”

      • What a poor characterization of a very serious event. How dare you use someones overdose to try to make a point about this coffee shop – while lying at that!

      • I take it very serious and so does the neighbor that saved that person’s life. I don’t need to prove anything the facts finds it way out.

      • You have little to none knowledge about this event and the person you speak of. Hi, I am the fifth worker owner, my name is Holly. I am at Black Coffee about 5 days a week. Working to protect this safe space for people who don’t have many places to feel comfortable and like they belong is my heart and soul right now.

        The person you claim over-dosed is currently going through serious psychological turmoil and they are one of my friends. Me and other active members of the community are trying our best to get her professional help and find her safe places to be (this is something I was working on today, in fact, going to meetings with her as I am one of her advocates). Your criticisms from afar and online on this matter are crossing a line and not relevant enough to the discussion about black coffee for you to bring it up.

        I would also like to clarify to you where you are mistaken about our fundraisers. The punk prom mentioned in the above article was a benefit show for the arrestees of May Day. We conducted business as usual that night and accepted donations for the cause of May Day related damage from friends and customers in distinct jars. It was a successful and fun night for business aspect and the fundraising. Win, win. One of our friends not in the worker-owner collective managed the fundraised money and it is in a separate account for other groups within our community to decide who is in the most need of medical or legal help.

        We also have an event coming up on June 2nd that is a benefit specifically for black coffee. It is around our 6 month mark and we are asking for financial support from the community. The focus for this one is completely on black coffee and our in house publishing collective, Anarres Press.

        We keep up an impressive collection of free zines in our space. This is made possible by amazing friends who volunteer their time with no payment except for mutual aid and maybe a free sandwich. It’s also made possible by their own money. These are regular people who choose to spend their time and money on making things like distribution of radical information happen.

        You have no idea how much heart and effort is committed to Black Coffee Coop by so many individuals. You have no idea how much it means to individuals who can count on one hand the spaces like this they feel safe in. You have none of the stories that I have collected in the amount of time I have devoted to the creation and protection of this space. We have all learned a lot, and mistakes have been made. Because of learning experiences (similar to life, the most important lessons are the most difficult), black coffee and the people here have given me some of the most beautiful and real experiences in my life. Nothing anyone will say can discount the meaning of this to me or my friends.

  2. All businesses on Capitol Hill deal with the potential drug users utilizing their bathrooms to do drugs in. However not all businesses encourage or portray an apathetic stance towards it happening on their premises, like it seems Black Coffee has gained the reputation of allowing. I’m glad they’re taking this zero tolerance policy for sex and drugs in their bathrooms…it seems like that should have been implemented a tad bit earlier in their business plan however. And to think that an abandoned storefront or two across the street from their business is somehow responsible for Black Coffee’s reputation is silly. Drawing those sorts of connections is irresponsible and lazy and reeks of a lack of accountability. Run your business responsibly and be a good neighbor and you’ll have more time to focus on the hard things involved with running a coffee shop; like simply the finances, marketing, and building a customer base that will sustain you for years to come!

    • Of course these things were a policy from the beginning. Black Coffee just chose to do the very radical option of dealing directly with people, rather than just calling the police and sending people to live behind bars.

      Obviously, the more genuine approach to a real issue such as drug abuse takes more time. I am not claiming we led people to a sure recovery, but we certainly demonstrated that people can still see & respect your humanity despite the struggles you are facing.

  3. I hope Black Coffee stays on the block for a decade or more. Welcome to the real world, upper-middle class condo dwellers insistent on being comfortable & cozy all the time & divorced from the grimy impact of class division and low income. What you can do: go to Black Coffee & make a friend. Volunteer at the low-income meal. Don’t race the pedestrians across the crosswalk in your car. I dont know what else but live & let live.

    • Yeesh. So judgemental and full of generalizations… I’m none of the above and i volunteer regularly. I’ve been to black coffee coop a few times, and thought it was ok. But lately I’m becoming tired of what it’s doing to the neighborhood I’ve lived in for years. I’m not looking forward to gross condos going up all around me, but I’m equally perturbed by the behavior this place encourages. BCC needs to shape up or get out so that something more worthwhile can occupy that space.

      • Seriously? What Black Coffee is “doing” to the neighborhood? I suppose your referring to the toxic over-caffeination, right?

        This paranoid blame-assignment by an hyper-cautious and overly vocal minority of neighbors in an otherwise highly transient, highly dense neighborhood is probably just fronting. I doubt it represents the real feelings of people living on Capitol Hill.

        I myself live here and I am quite happy that Black Coffee opened. The interesting subcultural and community oriented elements that made Capitol Hill what it is today are slowly being pushed out and Black Coffee is a breath of fresh air.

      • Amen. There is low-income housing on the very same block and other low-income places in the neighborhood. It’s not only rich people that want their neighborhoods to have less crime and drugs. We aren’t all divorced from the realities of poverty, etc, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a nice neighborhood.

  4. They are all doing a great job . And a wonderful place to drop by and visit and have a coffee. We wish you the best. Yes you need to be a good neighbor. But for the ones not in liking to how it’s run please its your choice just do not go for the bathrooms god help us if we need to be bothered by what goes on their . Jest don’t see how the bathrooms anyone’s business! But the owners. It’s theirs to let you use.

  5. The fact that it took six months to adopt a “policy” of no sexual harassment or intoxication seems like too little, too late, if you ask me. How long will it take to adopt a non-window breaking policy?

    • Hey A.J., just so you know your vitriolic comment assuming and judging the worker-owners, or for that matter any regulars, at Black Coffee, as window-breakers is 1.) unsubstantiated, 2.) rude, 3.) immature. Please think before you post things.

      • Black Coffee, a name evocative of Black Bloc Anarchy, has, throughout their first six months of operation, hung black flags in their establishment, a recognized symbol of Black Bloc Anarchy. During May Day, Black Coffee provided a “safe haven” for protesters that they knew the police would not enter, a recognized Black Bloc behavior. To that end, shattering windows of corporate property is a behavior consistent with Black Bloc anarchy. Thus, suggesting that they should have a policy regarding does not seem unreasonable.

        I will agree that my assertion is a conjecture based on thin evidence, but I would not say it is “unsubstantiated,” “rude,” or “immature.”

      • the black flag has long been a symbol of anarchism. the black bloc tactic is a very new protest technique in the whole spectrum of politics/protest.
        Black Coffee in no way evokes support or opposition for black bloc tactics. the name of the cafe references two things COFFEE and anarchism. the color has gone hand in hand with anarchism for over a century.

        have some wikipeida…

        so before you start making accusations because you disagree with black bloc tactics, know your facts.

      • black coffee is a drink! some of the ways this name is being misconstrued are just hilarious. do you think for a second you could consider that the people that opened this place are serious about serving great coffee and not just destructive villains?!

      • Yes black coffee is a drink. The name is influenced by several things. Black coffee the drink, black bloc, black panthers, and the black flag that represents Anarchy. Second thought the police should confiscate those black flags as possible evidence for past mayday attacks.

      • If you want to know what the name is about, I suggest asking.

        The name Black Coffee is an allusion to

        1) the delicious drink
        2) the philosophy of anarchism

        If you want to learn about either, come on in sometime :)

        Another similarly named cafe: our sisters Red & Black, named for Anarcho-Syndicalism. Believe it or not, its not a big secret or conspiracy. Wow!

      • all i have to say is that anyone who thinks anarchism is all about breaking windows just doesn’t know a whole lot about anarchism. not historically, not etymologically, not practically, not philosophically.

        I can’t say I blame you, but I do suggest you restrain from trying to sound knowledgeable on the subject.

        It’s okay! Hey I work Thursday – Sunday if you wanna come talk about anarchism ;)

  6. have a community forum and settle it. All the naysayers can come and express their negativity in person.

    • This is a good idea!

      I wonder why almost all the opposition seems to come online, when we’re open 16 hours a day, and there is always a collective member around to talk.

      • Honestly, some of us have said things and not gotten helpful responses. Additionally, it really doesn’t feel safe to do so in a case like this. The people that run the shop seem like really nice people with good intentions–you may be one of them, I don’t remember names. On the other hand, many of the people who frequent the place do not (and who also comment on these threads.) Many of us who live in this neighborhood do not want to come to a public place to discuss our concerns when those same other people may be there–and then may target us as we’re walking around the neighborhood. I’ve already had some bad interactions with your customers, and do not wish to have more, which is why I have moved to commenting online and try to do it by presenting the information as I know it without namecalling, something that does not seem to be true of most of your shop’s defenders.

      • I like the time some customers started a jam session in front of the doors at 8-9pm and played even louder after a few neighbors yelled “shut up” and “knock it off”.

      • That is actually earlier than quiet hours, why did you feel so inclined to tell them to shut up? Are you aware what neighborhood you moved into?

        I used to live on the hill and I had to put up with drunks until 3 the morning, and I didn’t expect the bars to solve my problem for me. I moved!

        Here’s a suggestion: Don’t live on the Pike Pine corridor if you need peace & quiet by 8pm.

      • I said “few neighbors”. I did not say I yelled or said anything. I am very aware of the neighborhood and how much it has changed over the years.

      • Honestly, I’m always at Black Coffee, and the only times I’ve ever seen a situation that seemed like it could get dangerous, it was dealt with by one of the worker-owners. I really think you’re just being judgmental of the people you see there. None of the regulars have ever made me feel unsafe.

      • How did you approach the conversation? Because if you approached me to talk to me about my heart and soul project in the demeaning and belittling way you are approaching this discussion, then I am not going to be likely to want to open up to you. If you came in and asked if I could talk and we decided to sit down and have a conversation I’m sure we would find many ways we agree.

      • I did not speak to you, I spoke to one of the male owners after witnessing one man threatening to cut another with a knife the minute he stepped out onto the sidewalk, screaming, yelling a gay slur, etc. I was there eating a sandwich, and after this situation was finally resolved (the one guy gave the other a head start before he was planning to pursue him to attack) I quietly pulled the owner/barista aside and politely told him that while I wanted to support them, that it was not a welcoming atmosphere and that behavior like this and other behavior I had witnessed in the cafe was making me not want to come to Black Coffee. I also asked why he didn’t throw them out or call the cops, and he said “they have enough problems.” I can’t speak for everyone on here, but I have been polite in these discussions and in discussions in person, while many defending your cafe just call us names like “asshole” or “condo dweller” (not true in my case) or say that we are judging your clientele based on looks when we are judging some of your customers and your shop based on disagreeable actions.

      • Hey Scott,
        Why you so scared someone is going to take a comment so seriously?
        Scared of the truth?
        Type away calling me a liar. I am not worried. Because your negative driven actions will speak louder. This article is about how much of an issue you guys are and how you are very close to understanding Anarchy doesn’t work when you open up a business in a capitalist society.

      • Hey Scott, I can tell you the time I felt really uncomfortable at your establishment. I was waiting for the bathroom and someone was taking really long so I knocked on the door, a guy opens it and says oh, I’m just using the sink, you can go in the stall. I’m not really uptight, so I thought, OK. But then, other men started coming in and using the urinal right next to me and hanging out and talking. So like three dudes I don’t know with me (a woman) in the bathroom. Not cool. If you have not already I suggest you have a one person limit in the bathroom at a time.

      • AR, Thank you for bringing up a specific issue, especially something that was a personal experience. Our bathroom is unisex. If you need it to be one person at a time you are perfectly free to deadbolt the door. No one else can come in even if they have a key. The bathroom set up is quite strange, we agree. Not quite sure why someone decided to put a urinal in there. Would have been more useful to just have two different stalls. A lot of people who hang out here feel very comfortable peeing in front of people. If you don’t, feel free to say something and anyone here will listen and respect you. Like I said, using the dead bolt completely avoids any problem with being with other people in the bathroom.

    • All workers are owners. Can we please stop calling them a CO-OP. They are under a Limited liability company. Its an all for profit place. Which allow people to volunteer for coffee. Which is illegal.

      • Anyone that has done worked for them as a volunteer basis should file for workers compensation. Also file for business taking advantage of workers.

      • Leo,

        Do you know anything about our volunteer policy?

        Or your just super smart & figure you understand the whole situation?

        Ok thanks bye…

      • Doesn’t matter what your volunteer policy is. Matters what Washington state worker laws are. Its cute how you throw around the word policy. As if you just thought of the idea of policy first. When policies and laws have been in effect way before you were born.

      • We don’t need the State of Washington to define us as a co-op to be one. We simply have to operate as on. In fact, because we are not a consumer co-op, there is no such recognition available to us.

        Worker co-ops have been around a LOOOONG LOOOONG time – long before the State of WA decided to recognize any co-ops legally. Meanwhile, we continue to operate as a completely horizontal worker collective, with all workers sharing equal parts of ownership.

        Also, consumer co-ops might be 90% of the co-op economy, but they’re not the only type of co-op. Worker Co-ops make up just 1% of the co-ops in the US – that’s right, WE ARE THE 1%!!!! There’s something for Leo to throw at us later ;)

        In general, our co-op operates under the classic anarchist philosophy, “to each according to their needs, from each according to their abilities.” Not each member necessarily does the same/same-amount of work, and not each member necessarily gets the same compensation. No matter what, these matters are determined by consensus of the collective.

      • “No matter what, these matters are determined by consensus of the collective.”

        You do realize this means you operate exactly like every major corporation here (Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, you name it).

      • Except those companies have huge amounts of employees that they have authority over and that have to abide by their decisions in exchange for a wage.

        But I suppose if you take that quote and look at it in the most limited context possible, then yes, you are correct.

      • Now now Scott don’t go calling everyone who makes a comment about your business being “ignorant” and then you make an equally ignorant comment about how you think things work in some big corporation.

        If you want to work in a collective, join one of these companies.

      • They are just trying to hide the effort to recreate the Bolshevik revolution.

        Bolshevik = majority = 99%
        Menshevik = minority = 1%

  7. I filed a public records request with SPD for:

    Complaints received about Black Coffee Co-op, a worker’s cooperative, café, community space, and infoshop located at 501 East Pine Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, which opened for business in November, 2012. This should include but not be limited to those complaints described in an [interview by Justin Carder of CHS published May 21, 2013][1], in which Ronald J. “Ron” Wilson #4069 of Seattle Police Department is quoted as having said, “All I can share with you at this time is that over the past several weeks we have received several complaints about activity at Black Coffee. Some of the complaints deal with City and State code and/or regulation compliance issues, while some deal with public safety issues. We are sharing the complaints we receive with other city and state departments that may have responsibility/jurisdiction for non-police issues.”
    Communications of complaints with “other city and state departments” including but not limited to the sharing described by Mr. Wilson
    All associated metadata

    All responses will be automatically published at the MuckRock link above.

    • Thank you, Mr. Mocek. I’ve read your other comments on this subject and very much appreciate your opinions and input.

      I’m not a condo-dweller and don’t like to see any group of people lumped into any “other” category. But that works both ways, of course. I’m low-income, and like most others like me I have nothing against people living in condo’s. Gentrification of the hill is very real, a lot of “us” have been frustrated for years with City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, but none of this is the fault of people new to the hill. I’ve lived on the hill off and on since 1976. That fact doesn’t entitle me to any special rights, but I can hope my voice is heard sometimes.

      Best case scenerio, for me; Black Coffee survives. That’s always my hope for any new establishment on the hill, BC is no exception. How to be all-inclusive, remain “Totally Free” in anarchistic fashion, and not piss off some neighbors? Gosh…no freakin’ idea, but dang it, if there’s a will there’s a way. That said, I absolutely feel for people who had’have problems with things going on outside this establishment. I hope everyone can agree that it’s not cool to feel threatened by anyone. If this one problem could at least be addressed by the more loyal BC-friendly, that would rock. Not BC’s fault re: homeless and/or drug-addicted and/or mentally challenged street-folk. I totally get that, and many neighbors do. For the most part there is a lot of tolerance of BC. It would be helpful, perhaps, if that were acknowledged from time to time. Comments on a web site don’t accurately reflect all the opinions of a neighborhood. More often than not they’re the angry voices of the people with very black and white opinions on a subject. Many of the comments here have been thoughtful and show that a lot of people are willing to try and get along. Just sayin’ to the people @ BC; not all of us are out to get you, but some people have some very real issues and they need to be addressed.

      May BC survive, live on for many years, and become the go-to place on the hill for great thinkers and the people who love them ~ Janet

      • Thank you Janet, for your thoughtful response. I am a worker owner at black coffee and I would love to have discussions with people in the community. Come by and talk to me when I am working! Email me or other collective members from the contact info on

        There are many opinions and stories involved in this and I appreciate you recognizing that.

  8. Thanks Phil, for doing that. I’ve recently found the mailing address for their landlord. It’s Ron Amundson, PO box 9263, Seattle, WA 98109.

    I live on this block, and we’re not all rich yuppies despite what these people claim–some of this is low income housing. I like that MAYBE they will try to cause less problems, but why all of a sudden? I don’t believe it. The cops came out to their event the other night because they were blocking the sidewalks and being really loud, drinking beer outside, and causing other trouble. After the cops left they doubled the amplification on their music like petulant kids.

    I know people who will no longer go to the gaming place next door because customers from the coffee shop have threatened them. I have been threatened by their customers both on the block and at the bus shelter across the street. Inside the cafe when trouble happens they don’t really do much because they don’t want to call the cops.

    The comments above, which seem to be from the owners, suggest that we should try talking to them directly. I’ve done that–and said that this was causing an atmosphere which would cause people not to go there. They told me that these miscreants had enough problems and didn’t need the cops called even when they were threatening violence. There are nice people who go there, sure, but there are also a lot of people who are active druggies (they tell you as you walk by, I’m not making assumptions here) and other people who are sketchy. Also, by default, a lot of them don’t believe in things like cops and laws. Do I really want to stand in a place surrounded by people like that to discuss with the owners? Do I want to be targeted by these people when at least on one occasion I saw one of their customers threatening to cut someone when they left the cafe? I’m not stupid. It is not a safe place to have these discussions.

    They don’t care about the fact that people live in the neighborhood or they wouldn’t have kept blasting their music the other night, and they are causing a lot more problems in the area. I’ll be glad to support them if they can fix these problems, but in the meantime I’m going to write to their landlord and hope others will do the same. I also hope that we get to see those police reports. They should move to a non-residential neighborhood where they can have their mayhem away from the rest of us.

    And for the people on their Facebook page who mock the residents of the hill, saying that if we want to live in an urban neighborhood we should have to just put up with crime, etc. I say “Nonsense”. This is a nice neighborhood, and we should do what we can to keep it safe. It was a lot safer before Black Coffee came.

    • The idea that a coffee shop was opened and invited “a wave of crime” to capitol hill is probably the most retarded thing I have seen in awhile.. Our neighborhood is indeed being overun by assholes..

      • Your replies say everything there is to know about you. Incapable to articulate a possible valued point. Its amazing how one word choice can discredit a whole statement.

      • Annotherresident, I have not yet been into Black Coffee Coop so I will not comment about them. As for you, people might take you a little more seriously if you refrained from calling them “assholes” and “retarded” because they disagree with you, or dare to buy a condo on the hill. It really doesn’t make you look very good.

      • This kind of rhetoric is a great example of why you misunderstand black coffee and the people there. You are basically discounting what someone says based off of their syntax and way of speaking. Who are you to say that what they share isn’t valid because it sounds uneducated. That is oppression in its purest essence.

        “Your replies say everything there is to know about you. Incapable to articulate a possible valued point. Its amazing how one word choice can discredit a whole statement.” Yes, yes asshole it is amazing that you would discredit something another person said because of one word choice gives you the right to completely judge who they are and their value of input.

      • Holly, are you really defending the use of the word ‘retarded’ as a perjorative? I realize that you feel passion around this issue but think twice before you cross over into supporting cruel, dehumanizing hate speech. That’s not a class issue. It’s a humanist issue. Defending that kind of language serves no ones cause.

      • Holly, speaking for myself, all I was doing was suggesting to anotherrisident that calling everybody who disagrees with him or her an asshole isn’t a legitimate argument and actually makes him/her look bad. If you think that is a form of oppression, then I don’t know what else to say. Calling names isn’t a way to make people take you seriously. But it sounds like that’s the way you argue as well.

      • The folks throwing those words around are not workers at the cafe and we don’t have any control over the language they decide to use.

      • and I am personally completely against any use of the word ‘retarded’ as an insult or pejorative, no matter what the person in arguing for.

    • Hello there, my name is Holly… I am a worker owner at black coffee coop. I don’t know who you are and you have never discussed with me any of the issues brought up. I am more than willing to talk with people who live in the area. Please come by during business hours sunday-wednesday when I work. You are blaming the project that I have devoted much of myself to for a lot of things that happen on the hill. I would like to hear in person your experiences so that we can talk about what that means to you and what that means to me. I would like to share with you my experiences at Black Coffee, they are dramatically different than what you and a few people on this comment board say. I want to find out where these perspectives diverge.

  9. also, there are several bars in the area that stay open until much later than Black Coffee and are much noisier, yet you seem comfortable singling out a coffee shop to blame for any late night disruption on the busiest corridor in Seattle. That also seems a little retarded..

  10. Just calling us “assholes” anotherresident–a very classy rebuttal indeed. First of all, the bars are not on this block and this area and so therefore are not my concern when I’m trying to sleep or work late at night. I would also complain about those bars if they were violating the noise ordinance and were causing disruption.

    Also, I’ve been in this neighborhood for far longer than the coffee shop. People try to tie into the anger over the new residents on the hill–that’s a different issue. Yes, the hill already had crime, and yes crime has increased in general because of the economy. Crime and bad behavior on THIS BLOCK has increased because of Black Coffee. People in front have blocked the sidewalk, have harassed people walking down the sidewalk and across the street, have threatened people patronizing the gaming lounge, and have openly sold drugs in front of the coffee shop. None of that was a problem in front of Traveler’s where it is a regular problem now. None of that is a regular problem in front of other neighborhood coffee shops. I look forward to seeing those police reports. I am certain they will back up what I have observed and my friends have seen.

    • Yeah, I’ve actually seen people selling dope in other coffee shops. When the concern was raised at Black Coffee, they actually got rid of the problem. AND that was months ago.

      • All I personally wanted to see communicated through this article is that the Black Coffee workers have acknowledged serious issues that we had created (unintentionally, but created nonetheless) on the Pine & Summit corner. We acknowledge them & continue to acknowledge them. We address them & continue to address them.

        We have worked rigorously for months to deal with the concerns aired, and we have strived to deal with them in the most compassionate way possible. I believe we have largely made changes that were respectful to all parties involved. Today, the corner is safe, the space is safe, and all behavior that seems to be a breach of this safe space is dealt with immediately.

        It saddens me that while there are serious issues to be discussed, folks who have set themselves up against Black Coffee have decided to take on a new tact of making up stories and speculating on our operations without knowledge.

        There are commenters here trying to critique our financial situation. This is inappropriate and unrelated to the issues being raised by the neighborhood.

        There are commenters here making up claims such as, serving alcohol to minors. This is inappropriate and a direct attempt to sabotage our business.

        There are commenters here posting the contact information for our Landlord, making it clear that they have more intention to sabotage our business that resolve any issues in the neighborhood.

        I don’t know how we are expected to listen to and work productively with neighbors that are taking such an passive aggressive approach. This is why many people on the Black Coffee community are frustrated and tired of the critique we have been receiving – because much of it is presumptuous and directly attacking our existence without any purpose. This makes it feel much more like a political attack then a genuine concern for the neighborhood.

        This doesn’t mean that neighbors with a more practical approach should be silenced or attacked – but it gives context for the emotions you can see coming out in this thread.

        I personally spend most all of my time in & around Black Coffee, and the change in atmosphere since January & February is profound. The inside is different, the outside is different.

        We set out to create a SAFE SPACE. This Safe Space was taken advantage of by all sorts of folks (not just street folks). This article is about how we have been outwardly defining & enforcing our boundaries that protect this safe space.

        What we are creating here is a SAFE SPACE FOR EVERYONE. A safe space for everyone DOES NOT mean ANYTHING GOES. It means we will not tolerate intimidating behavior, physical, mental, emotional abuse, intoxication, drug use or selling, sexual behavior, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression.

        Does this mean we have always executed this perfectly? NO! None of us have done this before, and we are learning.

        But is it worth trying? Has something positive been created at Black Coffee already? Have people formed a positive and healthy community within Black Coffee? Definitely.

        And we will continue to do so. Here’s to everyone who wants to make our communities, safer &healthier places to live work play & pray.

      • Thanks for your eloquent response Scott. From the above responses from you and Holly it’s clear that you are working your hardest to address the specific problems brought to you by concerned customers. I’m sure that’s appreciated by the reasonable members of the community. As for the generalized xenophobia and misguided intolerance directed towards you and your shop, well it’s an unfortunate truth that some people simply lust for a reason to feel offended. I’m well aware of how it feels to have your good intentions misunconstrued and feel yourself at the mercy of an irrationally angry mob. For some of these people, there is nothing you can do or say that will appease them, even when it is obvious that you and your co-owners are earnestly trying. So don’t feed the trolls, ignore them and continue to respectfully address your patrons and keep expressing yourself as compassionately as you have here. Hopefully those who have ears will hear and everyone else will eventually shout themselves hoarse. Good luck!

  11. So you’ve been on the Cap Hill for longer than 6 months? Good for you. You totally know/care about the deep alt cultures the hill used to be rich with that have gone endangered.

    I’ve seen some of the best community places in this city go under due to greed and some condo company trying to make a buck. Who wants to live in a community that is made of assembled boxes stacked row after row?

    I have gone to Black Coffee many times and I applaud what they are trying to do. I’ve never been harassed, I’ve never been asked if I wanted to buy drugs (some kid did ask if I wanted to buy odd but pretty drawing he was working on), and they make a yummy soy mocha for half of what I normally pay.

    You know what? I know it’s a generalization but I wonder how many condo-dwellers actually know any of their neighbors? Go and meet them. Stop being alone. It feels good.

    • You’re making a lot of generalizations here that aren’t really addressing my point and making it personal when you don’t even know me. I have lived on the hill for almost a decade. I don’t know all the alternative cultures, no one does. I am part of some of them. I am not a yuppie or a rich person–I know my neighbors because I walk everywhere or take the bus, don’t have a car, and support local businesses. I supported this one when it opened and tried to keep supporting them until I got frustrated with them. I do not live in a condo, and I do know many of my neighbors. No one has asked me to buy drugs, but I have seen drugs being sold. Stop arguing this like it’s a class issue and generalizing about people and diffusing the issue.

      • It’s funny that you keep commenting to people that they are making generalizations about you…when they weren’t even addressing you. If the shoe fits?

      • I was directly replying to the comments right above my comment made by where’s the rainbow which were made after my comments, so I feel I was being addressed….

  12. Alright I tend to straddle both sides of this argument so I’m not sure how helpful this comment will be. I have had an incredibly negative, slightly traumatic experience at Black Coffee where I felt unfairly targeted and unsafe, in possible physical danger and definitely verbally assaulted. No joke, I’m not a very sensitive person, but this incident was outrageous and disturbing. I did bring it up with the owners and was told that they were taking steps to keep it from happening again. I wouldn’t know if that’s the case because honestly I’ve been too afraid to come back. Which I know sounds really pussy and all, but I just get a sinking feeling, and flashbacks to being publicly ridiculed when i think about walking back in. From what I’m reading in the comments here, I’m not sure the owners have done much to change that confrontational culture. That being said, one of the things that was screamed at me that night was “you don’t belong here, we don’t want you here.” Honestly, I’m fine with that. I don’t belong everywhere, and I don’t expect to get along with every demographic and I’m perfectly fine to live and let live. I don’t reside in the very immediate neighborhood so I can’t speak to the effects it’s having on surrounding homes or businesses, but I really feel that there’s a place for everybody and while I was sad to realize that this cute, well designed, intriguing coffee shop was absolutely NOT my scene, I’m not going to begrudge those who feel welcome there. I truly believe that the owners had a very nuanced and intellectual view of what it meant to open an “anarchist” coffee shop, and it’s likely that their generosity is being taken advantage of by people for whom Anarchism is less an ideology and more of a fashion or an emotion. And while I doubt that I’ll ever frequent the establishment, I do sincerely hope that they eventually attract the mature, intellectual customer base who can provide them with the environment that I’m sure was their initial dream. As for those decrying the place as a counter-culture breeding ground for violent nere-do-wells, I’d advise you to recall a time in Germany when ALL coffee shops were considered hubs for dangerous political dissidents and possession of coffee in your home was a punishable criminal offense. Certain coffee houses have always been meeting places for radical thinkers and I truly believe that Capitol Hill has room for a “black sheep” cafe. I just hope that the owners can balance their radical ideology with the harsh reality of financial obligation before this promising business goes the way of so many other small businesses in this city…belly up.

  13. This article is pretty ridiculous – and a few of the responses are repulsive. The yuppies in this neighborhood need to get a grip. If you’re bothered by noise in the heart of a city – I don’t know what to tell you. Its everywhere, and its not going away.

    If you wanted to address the issue of noise simply coming from Black Coffee, though, why not just go down to Black Coffee yourselves and talk with some of the worker owners? Oh, that’s right, because you’re terrified of homeless and low income people.

    And the discussion of drugs in this piece is just absurd. As if Black Coffee invented drug use.

    Black coffee is one of the best things to happen to capital hill in awhile. Great coffee, awesome people, great events… Here’s to a long stay!

  14. I think the people at Black Coffee have good intentions. But when you are open and accepting of all types of people, sometimes it can attract a bad element as well. And that’s true in all aspects of life. So I hope they can keep any bad incidents down as I enjoy going there to read, eat vegan goodies, and have tea. If there are disruptions I’ll just go somewhere else

  15. I have lived in this area for many years and have really enjoyed the diversity it offers. That is until Black Coffee moved in!
    If you enjoy a crime ridden, drug ridden establishment than Black Coffee is your type of place. For those that have said they have not seen drug deals, threats, or other inappropriate activity here they are not watching what takes place outside this establishment.
    It is a shame people that enter nearby shops or those walking by have to feel threatened by the people that hang out in front of Black Coffee.
    The fact is crime is taking place inside and outside of this shop. The store owners have allowed this. This can not be acceptable in any neighborhood. Black Coffee needs to go!

    • What was the one incident where a young woman argued with police outside the doors while nude? Then she sat next to the tree and ripped up papers and tossed it in the air.

    • The young people (and some older) who are actively engaged in drug use were already on the hill. They were on my block, and every other corner of Capitol Hill. Black Coffee didn’t event tweakers or homelessness.

      I remember the first apartment I moved into on Capitol Hill was on this block on Pine corridor side. I got a deal on the apartment because when the landlord showed me the unit, there were several kids squatting it, using it as a place to shoot up. Drugs on Cap Hill? Not new..

      Do people deserve a decent place to live? of course, but please come up with some better solutions than “shut down the coffee shop”. Its the only coffee shop at this point on Capitol Hill that has an inkling of resemblance to anything “community-supportive”.

      • You have an interesting idea of what “community supportive is”. BTW I live on Summit among the half way houses and yes of course there are drugs here. But that does not make it okay for a business in our community to welcome this behavior and chase out the other shops around it.
        If they want any respect at Black Coffee from the community they need to have respect for people that live around it and the other stores. Since they don’t good bye.

      • by referencing “community-supportive”, I am referring to the fact that BCC is and has been willing to host community events, forums, and fundraisers free of charge. This is more than can be said of most other coffee shops or bars on Capitol Hill that make up the social back-bone of the neighborhood. Whether or not you like the political content of those events is irrelevant. I am sure that BCC would be open to hosting events from other political perspectives if they were approached, so long as they were not in direct conflict with the ideals of those who run the coffee shop.

      • um hello. Kaladi Brothers is very supportive of many parts of our community on the hill and a very friendly neighbor besides.

  16. It is my impression that anarchists often respond to any criticism by saying “you just don’t understand anarchism.” Some of Scott Davis’ remarks above are examples of this response, which strikes me as quite arrogant.

    The reality is that some elements of the “anarchist community” use violence and property destruction as a method to “protest.” We who oppose such activities do not have to be experts in anarchist theory to have a valid complaint. Scott’s statement that “I love unpermitted marches in the street that stop traffic” makes me think that he is at least somewhat sympathetic with the illegal actions that some anarchists espouse.

    • You don’t understand anarchism if all you have to say about it is there are connections to violence and smashing things. If you took the time to study some history and talk to some people who identify as anarchists you would find that there are many many MUCH more interesting things that come up about anarchy. I trust that you are an curious and intelligent being and that once you heard some cool new ideas, you would loose your hyper-focus on how the media portrays anarchism.

      • Holly, apparently you missed that I said “SOME elements of the anarchist community use violence and property destruction…” That is hardly a sweeping generalization. And apparently you think that “the media” are responsible for the negative image of anarchists, as if the regular episodes of illegal activity are not occurring.

        By the way, you just proved my point that anarchists often respond to any criticism by saying “you don’t understand anarchism.” That is a very condescending and dismissive point of view.

      • The fact that some elements of the anarchist community do so is no more relevant to this discussion than the fact that some elements of the coffee-drinking community do so is.

  17. Bob, come on. You’re smarter than that. Some elements of *every* community use those tactics. The reality is that when many people hear of anarchism, they think of something quite different.

    This includes many police officers. See CMD’s recently-published report, “Dissent or Terror: How Arizona’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate Interests, Turned on Occupy Phoenix” and PCJF’s, “The Eviction of Occupy Portland, Ore.: A Supremely Political Affair;New Docs Show More Detail into Boston Law Enforcement Focus on Peaceful Protests” for an idea of just how insanely they’ve been targeting people they suspect of holding anarchist political beliefs.

    • Phil, I disagree strongly that “some elements of EVERY community use those tactics” (violence, property damage). Did you really mean to say that? It’s simply not true. One recent example is the very large march on May Day organized by the labor and pro-immigrant groups….the one from Judkins Park to Westlake…that was a very peaceful demonstration, as opposed to later that evening when the violent anarchists took the stage.

      I realize that most anarchists do not engage in illegal activity, but at the same time they indirectly support their violent comrades by statements such as by Scott Davis (he “loves unpermitted marches…stopping traffic”) and by holding fundraisers for their legal defense, as happened recently at Black Coffee. These things implicitly condone the violence.

  18. Living amongst the half-way houses on Summit, I thought I had a pretty high tolerance for the ‘urban envirinment’.
    Than came Black Coffee…
    I’ve learned more about the drug deal handshake and how to set up a homeless camp in the last six months than all my years on the hill. The only place you can price shop for drugs – don’t like that price, go to the guy two people over, he takes coupons. The surprising thing about the article is learning that they have a bathroom! Never would have known that by the actions of the clientele. The pictures accompanying the article, while maybe true the first day of opening, in no way reflect the reality of today.
    By allowing all to stay is doing a dis-service to those who need help. Black coffee is enabling those who could benefit from a shelter or a drug addiction program by hiding them from those who really care and can help them.

  19. If you do not care what people think perhaps you should not read this blog…
    Yes there is crime in other areas but when it is right outside your door and welcomed inside as well that is a big issue. Maybe people are finally taking action and saying enough is enough.

  20. I’m holding my tongue. With both hands. You’re all very welcome! I know, pictures or it never happened. Well, you try taking a picture of yourself holding your tongue with both hands. Anywho, this is great progress for me. But I can say this; I’m a lot less naive than I was 2 years ago and I don’t make judgements about anybody without a great deal of evidence. Was that cryptic enough? I hope so.

  21. I saw that Black Coffee clientele were giving out pamphlets informing employees of nearby businesses that it is ethically justified (and, in fact, mandated) to steal from your employer. Do the worker-owners of BCC subscribe to this philosophy? Is this the kind of community BCC wants to promote?

  22. I am actually appalled at all of the ill wishing done in these comments. Like it or not, these are organic human beings made of the same stuff that everyone else is. Intolerance is being championed by sort of pious-flavored disapproval. The sense of equality and humanity in dozens of these remarks are void.

    I too live and work on the block, and I admittedly care not for the clientele of BCC, but I harbor no resentment for them. Just because you disagree with something does not make it wrong. Just because something is against the law does not make it wrong. The worker owners are fine dudes, and they’re just doing their best to operate within their parameters, I’d hoped to see more respect for fellow humans than I did, and that’s just fine.

    We all agree to a social contract with each other, and especially in Seattle, there is much fine print and a stricter policy of it-goes-without-saying. WE can all acknowledge that, and Seattle-ites are quick to punish anyone who does not interact with them in the way they desire. Everyone seems to be fighting for their own personal “brand” of neighborhood, instead of working together to come to an agreement. Simply wishing away a business because it’s policies and tendencies do not adhere to an individual’s invisible “brand” is foolish.

      • That’s absolutely correct. Our laws should be based on our morals, not the other way around. An adult possessing flowers of the cannabis plant was no more wrong last year than it is today. It was never wrong for dark-skinned people to sit in the front of a bus, even when it was unlawful.

      • That is a VERY Seattle way of looking at things.

        “Our laws should be based on our morals, not the other way around.” You’re kidding me right?

        We have laws so that generally acceptable norms are put into place because morals differ from person to person. Try telling a gay kid living in Arkansas that laws should be based on our morals and he’d be like “I thought they were…”. Try telling a extreme jihadist that laws should be based on our morals and he’d tell you “they are”. So is that how you want Seattle to be?

      • That it was unlawful for dark-skinned people to sit at the front of a public bus did not mean that it was wrong to do so. That it was unlawful last year for most people in this state to possess parts of a particular plant didn’t mean that it was wrong for them to do so. It’s not wrong for consenting adults to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money. It’s not wrong for people to wager money on sporting events.

        Violating unjust laws is simply the violation of unjust laws. It’s often inadvisable, but I don’t look down upon someone for doing so. If your sense of right and wrong shifts with changes in the political climate upon which our laws are often based, there’s something wrong with you.

      • Phil, I agree to some extent. Some laws make no sense and, if no harm is done to others or to property, they can be ethically ignored.

        But it’s a very slippery slope….that is, to personally pick and choose which laws to respect. For example, some would say it is OK to rob another of his/her iPad, since that victim can probably just afford to buy another one. In my opinion, if you think a law is unjust and/or wrong, you have a moral obligation to work to change that law, and not take the lazy way out by disobeying it.

      • I didn’t suggest picking and choosing which laws to obey. I supported KRG’s assertion that, “Just because something is against the law does not make it wrong.” And as you probably know, I do work to change some laws with which I disagree. But I do not look down upon someone simply because he or she violated a law. Violation of the law is not wrong, per se, in my opinion.

      • You guys are talking about virtues and morals.

        Morally, if it’s against the law, it’s wrong.
        With virtues you can justify anything, including murder.

    • Thanks!! I also live and work right on this block. I share your sentiments on the situation. The clientele isn’t my favorite, and I don’t subscribe to the politics of the owners. That said, as long as they strive to be good neighbors to those around them, then I have no beef. Admittedly they’ve fallen a little short here, but I’m more than willing to give them some time to work out the kinks before reaching for the pitchfork; it’s only been six months. In theory, I laud them for not turning away homeless kids who want a place to chill who will act responsibly.

      I have seen my friends and neighbors being harassed by the kids outside. I have seen people prowling cars in private parking lots and then wander into BBC when confronted. I have witnessed the open air drug market. Rein in this stuff and its all good.

      And just a note for the kids (and adults) who hang out on the ground on the Summit side of BCC, that’s a popular place for taking a piss by drunk people after 2am… just be aware of what you’re sitting in

    • I would agree, but when a group/community actively opposes the established community norms and expectations, it can be difficult to accept their contributions to the community. As somebody who has been confronted in the restroom at BCC, I can affirm that it can be a frightening experience. Having been accosted on the street by BCC customers, I can affirm that it can be intimidating. BCC invites this environment with it’s “everybody welcome, no police” policy. I would love to support and respect them, but they invite the danger. They invite this environment, whether they intend it or not, and as long as they do, they will continue to be the villain of the story.

      • I am curious whose community norms you are referencing? I would counter that a neighborhood like Capitol Hill has a very broad set of values, not all of which are shared by every person.

    • All this being said, I also feel it is necessary to provide more than a argument for equality, but my more personalized and unique experienced.

      I wanted to like Black Coffee. I hate that I am forced to witness garbage and hoodlums and ne’erdowells every single day as I exit my building. I hate that, scowl equipped and a heavy sigh, I am forced to maneuver through whatever obstacle course the rogues of the day have prepared as I walk up E Pine St, daily. I could cross the street, but fuck that, I live here and I walk up the south side and nobody on the curb gives a shit. I hate that I am reminded dozens of times a day of the entitlement a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude exudes upon the passerby. I hate that I am forced to deal with something that I do not want to have to deal with because nothing will be done about it. I hate that my short walk home is often one of caution, as I know I cannot trust my fellow human enough as I pass them.

      I have overheard prostitution proposition outside of BCC, I have been subjected to “fuck you’s” while simply going about my day. If the general consensus of being an asshole is “forcing others to interact with you strictly under your terms,” E Pine and Summit is full of assholes, curbside. They are still people, but they are assholes. The nobody giving a shit directly affects everyone who does give a shit. The corner is obnoxious.

      The shared bathroom situation is precarious at best. The hordes of transients (who vocally don’t give a shit about the well being of anything outside themselves, if that) on the sidewalk affects every passerby is not tight. Again, these are human beings but the constant “fuck you” is played out and I (and obviously many others) are over it.

      The human way to react to safety concerns would be to correctly address and handle them so it becomes resolved, not achieve a bare minimum to keep the party going. I wanted to like BCC, but they’re blowing it.

      • I think is this regard you will be able to notice that the space is feeling more welcoming these days than it once did, and will continue to do so.

      • I agree that the space has vastly improved, and I look forward to seeing a compromise being met and the block living harmoniously with each other.

  23. Please assume for the sake of discussion that you are opposed to any use of coercive force. Whether or not you believe it possible to put up with inconvenience or discomfort in an effort to avoid even the threat of physical harm to other people, just put yourself in that position for a moment. Now, when someone does something you find inappropriate in your shop, what do you do? Do you ask that person to leave your shop? What if the undesirable behavior happens outside of your shop? What if you ask that person to leave, then you ask that person not to stand on the public sidewalk nearby, but the undesirable behavior persists? Without compromising your principles, you can’t bring in the police to enforce policy with which you conveniently agree, because they will almost certainly accomplish that enforcement by way of real or threatened violence. Just what do you think is the right thing to do under those circumstances? When your neighbors begin blaming you for behavior of other people, how would you react?

    • It’s a good question, Phil, but doing nothing is not the answer. These are the kinds of questions that small business owners face every day and they are complicated and thorny, like this entire discussion. But community members have a responsibility to maintain a safe neighborhood if there is to be any sense of community at all. That involves respecting difference and taking a sense if stewardship for your business and your neighbors. I hope that Black Coffee can find a way to do that while remaining true to their ideals & without alienating their neighbors – which is what looks to be happening now.

      • Even if a person would grant that you have no control over this, you did have control over the amplifiers at your punk prom which were blasting way past nine the other night and were turned further up when the cops left. Also, it may be against your political belief to call the police, but having worked as a barista at other establishments in Seattle, I know that that is what they do–when someone shoots up in their bathroom, when someone sells drugs on their sidewalk in front of the cafe, etc, and thus the behavior is slowly minimized. Theoretically your political philosophies shouldn’t affect life past your doorway but they end up doing so.

      • A.N.N., I did not have a punk prom. I don’t own amplifiers. It is not against my political belief to call the police. I am a bystander. I’ve lived on Capitol Hill since I moved to Seattle 13 years ago. I work in Pioneer Square writing software. I helped form the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. When a gang of thugs dressed in black show up to a political demonstration with billy clubs, pepper spray, and explosives, I show up with a video camera.

        Following are my connections to BCC: 1) I know one of the founding owners. Until this venture, he worked as a kindergarten teacher. He has the patience and demeanor that one would expect of a teacher. He’s a good man. 2) When the Downtown Seattle Association convinced Seattle Police Department to begin cracking down on the Bread of Life Mission’s sharing of food in parks and people gathered to discuss how to respond, I joined them for that meeting at BCC. I feel like I stand out like a dorky, bourgeois, sore thumb there, but I know it’s almost entirely in my head. I attended further meetings at BCC, and I was in attendance at the first few rounds of the burrito brigade’s acts of defiantly sharing food with people in downtown parks. I attended those meetings and tagged along with the illegal (gasp!) food sharing operations not because of my desire to feed people, but because Seattle Police Department have lost my trust in their ability to operate in an ethical manner, and because a feel a duty to bear witness and to document our peace officers’ assault on members of my community should it occur.

      • Phil, I don’t know you and am glad you clarified but I as you were advocating for the coffee shop I am addressing the coffee shop as far as the amplifiers etc. Some things they CAN control like breaking the noise ordinance and have chosen not to.

      • Michael, that’s a sraw man. I didn’t suggest doing nothing.

        I want to know what the people foaming at the mouth here about those people (people who apparently go against the grain; people who challenge the status quo; people whose political ideology is similar to that which results in violent crack-down on expression of dissent across the nation and results in friends, associates, and mobile phone contacts being dragged before grand juries and tortured with solitary confinement in order to suss out more members of their social graph) think should be done under the circumstances I described. I want to hear suggestions for what someone who wishes not to participate in coercive force (i.e., to engage in or cause others to engage in harming or threatening to harm other people) do in this hypothetical situation.

        Once once crosses coercive force off the list of options for dealing with problematic behavior in or near one’s place of business, this issue becomes particularly complicated. “Just call the police” is not an option if you oppose beating people or locking them in cages until they change their bothersome behavior. Remember, SPD are a police force who as a whole believe that dousing people with pain-inducing chemicals or lobbing explosives at those people are appropriate methods for moving a political demonstration down the street at an acceptable rate of speed.

      • Michael: If, as you say, the community are responsible for maintaining a safe neighborhood, then directing the blame for the perception of lack of safety in the neighborhood squarely at the proprietors of one particular business is wholly inappropriate. That is precisely what I see happening here.

        I’m neither defending nor decrying anyone’s behavior—not that of BCC owners, not of their customers, and not of people who stand on the sidewalk nearby—in this discussion. I am asking what our neighbors would have someone who strongly opposes the causing or threatening of physical harm to other people do in response to problematic behavior in or near a place of business. I believe that our society is so violent that most of the people here do not even know that their implied suggestion to the problems they describe is, ultimately, violence.

      • Phil – the responsibility if the community is to communicate their concern and hold their neighbors responsible for creating and maintaining safe space. If Black Coffee is adverse to working with the police to find solutions then it is incumbent upon them to find alternative solutions. Shifting the blame onto the people who are pointing out the problems is the real staw man in this conversation.

        Some of the back & forth has gotten ugly here – on both sides. But there is enough engagement to tell me that the neighborhood sees a problem. We all need to be discussing solutions. But at the end of the day primary responsibility for solutions is with Black Coffee. That has nothing to do with their ideology and everything to do with being a good neighbor.

      • I see what BCC is trying to accomplish. And I agree with the apparently outrageous notion that street people are people and not automatically thugs or lowlifes. But if BCC is choosing to abdicate any responsibility for the behavior of their clientele (by hoisting it onto “the community” of whoever shows up at a given point), it’s no surprise there will be problems. Not sure why people are talking about the pros and cons of police – just creating and maintaining community standards of behavior is generally adequate, and not foreign to cooperative or collective establishments. You can accept all people without condoning unacceptable behavior – and if customer safety is not a given community standard that the worker-owners are willing to embrace and enforce at BCC, well, the lack of acceptance by the surrounding neighborhood is well earned.

        I was very excited about BCC when they opened; now I do not find it a welcoming place. This thread does make me want to check it out again, though, to see if the changes and openness put forth by Scott and others have improved things.

    • I don’t believe calling the cops and moving those people solves any problems for anyone. It just puts off the problem on other people. We at Black Coffee choose to talk to individuals and treat them like people. We do not accept cops into our community. This is an issue where we are clearly different from the norm or how the “safe neighborhood” advocates want us to behave. Talk to us in person if you want to understand the reasons why we choose to solve problems among ourselves and not involve the cops.

      • Just one question: If someone came into your café with a gun and proceeded to threaten and commit an armed robbery, would you call the “cops” then?

  24. My problem with this place has been patrons standing outside blocking the sidewalk and smoking right in front. I have had to go out of my way to get past the groups blocking the sidewalk and more than once have had them look at me like I was in the wrong.

    • Eric, did you notice that you just wrote that your problem with the place is something other than the place? I step around sign boards (illegal ones, I believe) on the sidewalk on my way to work every morning. Some businesses fence of our sidewalks so they can sell food to people outside of their property on public property. Both situations bother me a bit, but I don’t expect anyone to do anything about it.

      The only time I have ever felt threatened on the streets of Seattle was when I was walking to the bus after work, and some drunk in a football jersey puffed his chest and stepped up to me after I politely asked him and his dozens of friends occupying the sidewalk to let me pass.

      How far do you suppose my and other people’s complaints to the owners of the football stadium or to the owners of Louisiana Cafe about their intoxicated and belligerent customers is likely to go? Nowhere, because those businesses get a pass.

  25. You know something, all of your “complaints” are not based upon any real concerns about “activities” at BCC. It’s nothing more than typical stereotyping. I can almost bet that if BCC catered to any other folk, there would be high praises. I’ve been on the hill since 1994 and I have seen it change. High rise condos, small businesses being ran out by big corprates, and so much pretenciousness in the air. It’s gotten ugly. We need to take back our hill and BCC is a perfect step in the right direction. Thank you BCC.