It’s the new year, and we are starting it very differently than we ended it. We want to thank everyone who has encouraged us after the closing of Rocky Butte Espresso Bar. We are grateful for our neighborhood, our people, and everyone who reached out with suggestions for moving forward.
After a busy couple weeks where we went from having big plans for 2023 at the espresso bar, to being kicked out, to emptying and cleaning the space—all while pouring coffee and explaining the situation to our community—we are getting our feet under us.
In getting reorganized, we realized there is some confusion about what happened, some questions. We hope we can answer some of them a little better. While we want to be careful and respectful of all parties involved and not burn bridges in the community we love so much, we want to be clear with you. Here is a bit more explanation on a few topics we’ve noticed people wondering about.
Was the Espresso Bar not earning enough?
Some concern was that there was not enough community support for the espresso bar, and that while we told everyone it was a landlord issue, we really closed because we couldn’t financially support our efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every year, and nearly every month, Rocky Butte Espresso Bar became more and more financially viable. We could not be prouder of our little espresso bar, the one that sat in a quiet spot off the beaten track, making a name for our neighborhood and becoming a place community members enjoyed spending time. We know our success is largely because of you, because of our people, that we were able to make that location work so well. Had we been able to make lease negotiations work, there’s no telling how long we would have gladly stayed and grown the space into even more exciting things.
In fact, that leads us into the next clarification.
What was going on with the lease?
Even though that spot was not an ideal location (both for customers to find and for some limitations it had, like not having a place to wash dishes), we had dreams to do more with it.
As we’ve said, we were on a month-to-month lease and were negotiating terms for a more permanent one, in this case, a five-year contract. We had enlisted the help of a local lawyer to consult on the lease agreement, and we are grateful for his help. Lease agreements are complicated and the initial one we were sent had problems. It would not have been a good idea to sign. Our lawyer helped us come up with appropriate and standard changes to suggest to the landlord, which we did.
Also, we needed a kitchen. Currently, that location does not have a way to wash dishes, and our hopes were to serve our own food one day. Our landlord wanted to increase rent to keep up with inflation—totally understandable and acceptable. But, to keep our business growing and to reach the dreams we had for it, we needed to build that kitchen.
After trying to get our landlord to agree to help fund the kitchen build, he refused, indicating that it was too much of a risk for him. We agreed to fund the kitchen build ourselves, but we needed a smaller rent increase as we were taking on all the risk while he would still benefit from a potentially successful buildout. We thought we had come to an agreement, but the terms we discussed verbally were not all included on the lease and what was there was extremely unclear. So, we declined to sign until those issues were corrected.
We fully expected these additions to be made, as they were reasonable and, as we've said, had already been agreed to verbally. That’s why we were so surprised to be told that since we did not sign the lease, we were being evicted by the end of the month.
Everyone was surprised. Our lawyer was surprised. We were surprised. YOU were surprised.
We made every effort to negotiate in good faith. But rather than fight harder for a location that was imperfect for our needs and resistant to reasonable business practices, we are letting it go, hoping to preserve relationship, and praying for a better space in the future that either already meets our needs for a kitchen and space to grow, or one that we can make into something that fits us and our community perfectly.
Do we hate the landlord?
No, and we hope you don’t either. While we’re grieved and even frustrated over the situation and the loss of the espresso bar, we realize there’s more we can and want to do than we could ever fit into that location. We have dreams of our own roastery, of a larger space for community events, of cooking and baking our own food and pastries. Only some of that could have been possible in that space, and most of it only after spending a LOT of money and time first.
We always knew that our dreams would eventually require another space either in addition or in place of the espresso bar. Now we know that that time is now. And with this drastic pivot, we’re realizing more dreams we could make happen. Dreams we are excited about! We hope you’ll keep track of our progress and continue to support us on the way.
So, what IS next?
We’re not completely sure! We know we want to continue our focus on “people, place, coffee.” That means finding a way to support our Rocky Butte neighborhood, care for people, and still enjoy coffee. We are looking for businesses to partner with that want specialty coffee to either serve or sell. We are hoping to find a new location for an espresso bar or roastery or…?
We’d still love to hear any suggestions or ideas you might have! If you have any, feel free to send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can you help?
We are recovering from the significant financial loss of the espresso bar, and likely will be for a while. If you liked our coffee and want to support us, please start a subscription. We are still roasting coffee and can send whole beans or ground coffee to your door. And, as suggested above, send us ideas! We love to hear from you, and are grateful for your support.
As we continue into this new year, we pray you find hope for what could be. Even in this time, there is much to be grateful for, and much to hope for in all our futures.
-The Rocky Butte Coffee team
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- Tags: Closure, community cause, Local Economy, Major Setbacks, People Place Coffee, Portland small business, Rocky Butte Coffee, Rocky Butte Coffee Roasters