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Another one bites the dust: On IBC's closing
A small group gathers outside of Iron Bird Cafe Sunday afternoon. Hands shading eyes, they peek through darkened windows. You can’t tell if they’re trying to get a coffee or just confirming the news. Either way, the lights are off, the doors are locked, this cafe is closed.
In the current state of things, this should be barely newsworthy. Keeping up with every business that’s gone under would be hard work and probably make you physically ill. But for those of us watching (or living in) downtown, it’s significant.When the cafe opened in the Iron Bird complex last year there was a sense of arrival. For so long we’d chanted the mantra: “If only.”
If only there were a grocery store down here, or a nice mid-sized music venue or a great coffee shop. And here it was — Iron Bird Cafe, beautiful and spacious and open late, with good coffee to boot. Within weeks of it’s opening you could feel a sense of community blossoming. Suddenly there was foot traffic and art shows and bands playing on the sidewalk. Other businesses opened and when Fulton 55 came in across the street in Janurary, everything seemed to be (to quote the Simpsons) “coming up Milhouse.”
Then the cracks started showing. In June, the cafe announced it would be cutting its hours, which is a pretty good indication things aren’t going well. There were changes to the menu, supposed staff re-training. Then, it’s announced the cafe is closing. Two days later, the place is empty, chairs stacked on tables.
And, on cue, comes the blame. Some want to put it on the owners — there were too many of them and none had a clear vision of what the cafe should be. Others blame the property managment, which may or may not have raised rents and have a strict policy against liquor liscences. One assumes selling beer would make a business WAY more profitable. Others blame the customers themselves, who should have been around more, bought more than a cup of coffee and a refill. Then there’s also the default — it’s downtown.
Looking for blame makes sense. If we can understand what happened, we can make sense of it, and not have to feel so darn bad. It’s easy enough to get jaded, to feel like this is the final blow, the straw that brakes the back of whatever it is we’re trying to do downtown. And it is a loss, no doubt, a start-again point. But it’s not the first. Lest we forget, there was a Cafe Corzon before it was “On Wishon.” There was also Kern St. Coffee and Milano and Hero’s and Austin’s and Fagan’s and 2039 and Frank’s Place (which probably isn’t closed, but didn’t live up to it’s hype). All great places, all becons of a better, more vibrant city life. All gone.
What’s the old saying about doors and windows? Let’s hope that this closing will be an opportunity and bring us something more.