Anarchist Cafe’s Anti-Capitalist Plan Backfires, Coffeehouse Now Permanently Closed

The Toronto coffee shop that proudly proclaimed itself the “anti-capitalist” store where you only “pay what you can” has closed its doors because, shockingly, it hasn’t made enough money to stay open.

Last year, business owner Gabriel Sims-Fewer opened The Anarchist Cafe and instantly made a splash in the media for proclaiming his business to be an “anti-capitalist” coffee and snack shop.

Upon opening, Sims-Fewer spun up a website where he told customers that, The Anarchist is “an anti-capitalist, anti-colonial café, shop and radical community space on stolen land at 190 Jarvis St.” And along with coffee and baked goods, customers could also pick up literature and buy books and paraphernalia promulgating socialism, communism, and revolution.

The owner happily conducted numerous interviews extolling his idea that customers would only pay what they wanted to pay and that eventually there would be no set prices.

“I hope by openly declaring the business as anti-capitalist I can motivate people to think and ask about what that means, and let those who are already anti-capitalists of one kind or another know that this is a place for them, where their politics, ideas, and identities will always be welcome,” he told BlogTO in April of last year.

Naturally, the story of a socialist coffee shop elicited a ton of responses both good and bad at the time.

As the website Streets of Toronto noted last June, many scoffed at the idea of an “anti-capitalist” store, and some even claimed that the owner was even being disingenuous.

One detractor, for instance, joked that “Getting publicity to grow your business. That is capitalism.” Another scoffed, “Charging five dollars for coffee that costs thirty cents to make. That is capitalism.”

Others, though, supported the cafe’s socialist ideas and excused away the inability to totally commit to communist principles. For instance, on supporter wrote, “Working within our systems but making it as anti-capitalistic as possible is the way forward. Businesses will always be inherently problematic but it’s about reducing the harm as much as possible. So that better establishments are taking up space, rather than abusive ones.”

Regardless, Sims-Fewer was excited by all the well-wishing and told the BlogTO, “I knew the world was full of radical progressives, and hoping to meet more of them was one motivation for doing what I’m doing, but I didn’t anticipate so much enthusiasm every day so early on.”

“One thing I want to make more people aware of is that I’m doing Pay What You Can drip coffee, as the first of hopefully many attempts to make great, non-corporate coffee more accessible to the working class people who are increasingly denied the good things we all deserve,” he explained at the time.

“The specialty coffee industry is heavily involved in gentrification and neocolonialism and I really hope to learn more and find ways to resist, subvert, and challenge that involvement,” the owner insisted.

But, only a year later The Anarchist Cafe is now closing its doors. Why? Because it can’t make enough money to stay open. Shocking, we know.

As has been the fate of other socialist/communist/radical leftist stores, Sims-Fewer has been forced to close his shop and posted a note to Instagram telling customers that May 30 was to be its last day in business.


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A post shared by The Anarchist (@theanarchistcafe)

And in a statement, he added that the cafe was a “success” even as he is being forced to close his doors.

“The Anarchist has been a huge success in every way I hoped, and has given me so much inspiration and education that I plan to put to use in future projects,” Sims-Fewer wrote, according to BlogTO.

“Unfortunately, the lack of generational wealth/seed capital from ethically bankrupt sources left me unable to weather the quiet winter season, or to grow in the ways needed to be sustainable longer-term,” he added.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to Pop Coffee Works, my coffee supplier and landlords, for their generosity and patience; they could easily have sold this space, or rented for more than twice what they’ve charged me, so this place wouldn’t have existed without them,” Sims-Fewer concluded.

One might assume that last bit about his retail space landlords seems to indicate that he was often late on paying his rent. So it seems likely he pushed off his closing longer than he should have and his landlords kept letting him slide over fears they’d be tarred as haters for demanding he pay them what he owes.

Regardless, the fact of life is that things cost money. The upfront costs to open a store of any kind is set by the marketplace and must be paid as the price of entry. But the truth is, capitalism works every time it is tried and it the fairest way man has ever devised to exchange goods and services. The Anarchist Cafe just learned this lesson along with the secondary one that socialism and communism fails every single time it is tried.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.