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.]