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Tempest in a Coffee Pot

Two events happened in the local coffee scene this week. AJ's Music Cafe announced that, unless something happens at the last minute, it will close its doors on March 31. They've reached the end of their lease, and as the business stands now renewing doesn't appear to make sense. This caused an outpouring of "OH NO!"s and similar lamentations. In my Facebook stream, though, two former open mic hosts reminded us why they were now former hosts, and how perhaps lamentations should be only for what could have been, not what was. I have been silent on Facebook about this. If you remember from my November 1, 2011 post, I left there on bad terms, myself, with my camel's back broken by the last straw of finding out John was being let go before John did. Officially, I will say that if AJ's could've continued as a viable business as it was, I had no problem with it; I just wasn't going to go there anymore. I know I wasn't the only one, because I had conversations with several musical colleagues about it and their responses were always strained, trying to be polite but not say too much. Unless they had a horror story, that is.

The other development was, early in the week my friend Mike suggested via Facebook that Gotham City Cafe be revitalized in some way. Gotham was the coffeehouse I frequented most from 1994 through 2000, when it closed. This got a lot of positive responses, and even drew the former owner in as one of the leading forces. This effort started mere hours before the AJ's announcement; eventually the two ideas kind of got linked, but that seems to be in limbo for now. I have been silent on this, too. Apart from the vagueness of the idea — but it's early, so I don't count this as a fault — I'm just not sure I need to go back there. I'm sensing that they want the sort of hang-out place Gotham was from 1996–2000, not the surprisingly vital performance space it was from 1992–1996. I was there trying to keep performances going during the changeover to hangout, playing guitar while potential audiences were either playing card games right in front of the stage or hanging out as far away from the stage as possible. It was pretty frustrating. That I kept going to Gotham till it closed only proves I have a high tolerance for things.

I still like hanging out in coffee houses. But in the last few years, I've come to accept how nice it is to go to clean, well-focused places that serve good coffee products, like Java Hutt in Ferndale, or even the chains Caribou and (gasp!) Starbucks. There's no live music there; then again, I've gotten used to going without live music in coffee houses. I wish the Gotham group well; I'll kind of keep an eye out to see if my assumptions are wrong, but for now I'm pretty well set, I think.

[There's a chance I'll copy this to Facebook, but if there are comments I will not copy those.]


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
I agree with you 100% about Gotham. I have no reason to support (monetarily or..morally?) a place that is just going to serve as a hang out spot. While I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm it just seems like there is no focus and I for one have no desire to go to a dirty basement and pay for bad coffee. I hope something catches on with them all though, it's nice to see people revved up about something.
Feb. 12th, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
Whew, I'm not the only one. :) Maybe the idea will get refined (or defined) yet, I mean, it's only been a week. AJ's space opening up might put a rush on things, but it doesn't have to. They shouldn't do it before they're ready, or it'll only crash.

James Clay has been talking about some sort of 20th Anniversary Gotham event. But I can't even get him to say whether it would be a show like the sort he used to organize or just a hang-out.
Feb. 12th, 2012 05:17 am (UTC)
Without naming names I've been shocked at the voices of reason or who the voices belong to at least. Some people seem to want to jump in with no plan or idea and other are looking at the bigger picture. I really could go on and on about it but I think I'd end up insulting a bunch of people and that's not my intent :)
Feb. 12th, 2012 05:50 am (UTC)
I never was very good with names of Gothamers, to be honest. So I can't tell who's being unusually thoughtful. :) I guess insults aren't really the best thing. And I don't want to be a wet blanket, so I probably won't copy what I wrote to Facebook after all. If anyone asks, I'll tell them, but otherwise I'll assume they don't want to hear my negativity.

I think if they want just a hangout space, they should go somewhere cheaper than downtown Ferndale. But if they want to do more, then Ferndale is worth the money.
Feb. 13th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
The variety of responses to Kent's post (and my responding post) was all over the map - from folks chiming in that AJ crashed and burned, to "Why are you kicking him when he's down". I got a wonderful letter back from Kent, suggesting we start up a law firm together. I dunno about THAT, but I've wanted to get some of the folks who were driven away from that cafe together for a gig elsewhere, and bill it as the "Nine Mile Exiles Show". ;-)

I do sincerely hope that someone who has both business and entertainment sense gets hold of the venue, and is able to revive it. It IS a great stage and location - although, if it isn't a Big Corporate Company such as Biggby or Starbucks, the chance of the new owner being able to pay rent for a space that size is pretty slim.
Feb. 14th, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)
It would be nice if a good venue for music opened there. Sometimes I wonder if that building is jinxed, though. It might need a complete makeover to exorcise evil spirits or something. :)

I saw the wide variety of responses. There seemed to be a lot of "don't speak ill of the dead" there, but it's not a dead person, just a business that failed. It's worth knowing why the business didn't make it so the same errors aren't repeated. If a group of performers who could draw a crowd no longer go there, that's going to cut into the possibility of a crowd there at all.

You're right about the rent. I wonder how much could be saved by splitting the space in half again. Xhedos was reasonably fun and worthwhile when it had just the original space, I thought.

Edited at 2012-02-14 12:15 am (UTC)
Feb. 15th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
I miss both aspects. I miss the music and the come as you are and say what you say comfortablity that was Gotham and Trixies.
Feb. 16th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Yeah, I miss both aspects, too. I hung out a lot at Gotham and Trixie's even when there wasn't anything going on onstage. Trixie's was even more enjoyable after the smoking ban went into effect -- oxygen and caffeine! :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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