Black Coffee, Anarchist Co-op That Left Capitol Hill, Calls It Quits

  • Posted on: 15 February 2016
  • By: thecollective

From Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Eighteen months after announcing it was leaving “Capital Hell” and looking for a new Seattle home, anarchist cooperative Black Coffee says it has given up the search:

in the past year since we closed doors, we’ve met almost every week, looked at dozens of spaces and almost signed several leases. on multiple occasions we were within days of signing a lease, only to have things fall through. sometimes, it seemed like our reputation had preceded us. finally at the end of the summer our most promising space looked like it was going become a reality, only to fall apart at the last moment. doing what we wanted with the space would have gotten us kicked out and sued, not doing what we wanted would have meant abandoning the reasons we started black coffee to begin with. after six months of negotiation, even though we had secured financing and created a strong plan for the project, we had to walk away.

“We are burnt out, out of ideas, and our lives are moving on,” the Black Coffee announcement posted to Facebook reads. “It’s time to be done.”

Black Coffee began its search for a Capitol Hill home in 2012 describing itself as a worker’s cooperative “formed with the intention to create a cafe space and infoshop in Seattle.” It eventually settled into the space at 501 E Pine that had previously been home to Travelers but wrestled with the challenges of combining its social ideals with day to day operations. By the end of the summer of 2014, Black Coffee’s issues with neighboring businesses — and what its members said were neighborhood changes that made it financially (and emotionally) untenable to stay here” — inspired the collective to leave Capitol Hill. Despite the issues, the feisty collective had its fans. Black Coffee raised nearly $9,000 in pledges in a crowd-funding campaign to help with its move.

In its goodbye announcement, Black Coffee called on its supporters to create more spaces like the cafe with “a free market, a free library, a free food bin, free holiday meals, and a free parking space” — “a space where you didn’t have to spend money to hang out.”

“Please make more spaces like Black Coffee happen,” the message reads. “Anything that we did, you can do. The shape of the community changes, but the community stays.”

The E Pine space is now home to Public Bikes.


A meeting every week for 18 months of not running a collective is 72 meetings. I'd call it quits, too.

Announcing their death on Fedbook. How rich in symbolism.

The notion that anarchists should be putting energy into public spaces for people to hang out in might need some reconsidering. Regular public potlucks and picnics in parks or whatever public/semi-public/abandoned areas are potentially different models.

There is something very Greek/demographic/polis/urban (all in the negative sense of those things) about cafes. I get the idea of being charitable to lonely people or wanting to provide space so that genuine friendships or comradely relationships can take root. But you know the means create the ends. Maybe we could aim for something not based on cooperative businesses or static enterprises to provide for/help expand our conviviality?

Yet still some anarchists are gonna have to sleep somewhere outside, while anarcho gang of buddies get laid in their private spaces. Try to address that, too, please.

That's not our problem fool

Cool, I thought anarchist solidarity was the shit 'til you opened my mind to good ol' Ayn Rand.

This guy just criticized something anarchists do by saying there's something too Greek about it. Uhhhhhhhh

"democratic" i meant, not "demographic"....

People don't sleep in cafes so there isn't much connection between homelessness and the creation of anarchist cafes. And 'gang of buddies getting laid' is disturbingly infantile and masculinist. Finally by the 'Greek" comment-I meant in the historical sense-i.e. ancient Greece-the birthplace of public space as some sort of silver lining or o reward for tolerating the misery of urban life.

Anyway, just wishing that these good folk with ideas and energy and an ability to fundraise wouldn't give up on doing a public anarcho-project, rather hoping that they would look at other ways of facilitating new relationships between potential comrades
and addressing the atomization of urban living. Like I said monthly open air picnic/potlucks with acoustic instruments, or a simple small reading room with free coffee, or whatever. Trying to find ideas that don't require such an effort and are based in the precarity of renting spaces and constantly finding dollars to keep it going.

"People don't sleep in cafes so there isn't much connection between homelessness and the creation of anarchist cafes. "

I don't really care whether or not their are anarchist (run) cafes. However, your statement ignores that homeless folks need somewhere to be when they are awake as much as when they are asleep. Our society provides very few options for those (that live in cities) who don't have money to spend. A cafe where the workers don't (have to) kick you out is one option, one that comes with decent reading material being a better option than one that doesn't.

Like the comment above says.

Not our problem.

who is this "we" implied in your "our"?

the "we" who didn't purchase the chair.

more like the "we" who makes snarky online comments anonymously and presumes to speak for everyone.

The very fact that people aren't allowed to sleep in such cafes is one of the basic things not making them actual ANARCHIST cafes in the first place. Duh.

Not so glad to see there's some "anarchists" in North America -actually there seems to be a lot- for whom anarchy is some ideal social relationship suspended in a future after the rev, or something.

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