08 August 2015

What's The LowDown on LoFi?? Nobody's Spilling The Beans!

Like most people I was jolted finding out about an "abrupt" closing announcement made like this on social media on July 31, 2015 that wasn't reported until August 7 in mainstream media Arizona Republic - that's a long time for a local story not to percolate.
We are sad to announce that tomorrow August 1st will be our last day of operation here at Lo Fi Coffee! We are...http://t.co/EYhQMWYULS
— Lo Fi Coffee (@loficoffee) August 1, 2015
WE ARE SAD TOO!!...and steamed

LoFi Coffee was the gathering grounds for almost anybody from every walk of life in downtown Mesa. It was more than just about coffee - it was camaraderie+good times.
Watch this 3:39 YouTubevideo, produced by the Downtown Merchants Association, back in December 2012 - 
The owners created a sense of place [little did they know the landlord had a different idea about what that place should be like] attracting city officials, office workers, visitors and the creative spirits transforming the New Urban Downtown Mesa.
LoFi was low-key + one of meeting places downtown for groups like the one @ right meeting for a walk to envision Mesa . . .  
LoFi created a destination in downtown - now closed down for reasons that go unexplained except for a polite mentioning about "a disagreement about what direction" was wanted for that place. 
Hey Guys! 
You gave downtown Mesa direction, you made it exciting, cool, vibrant when other official groups just talked about what words to use - you created a unique enterprise here in downtown . . .You brought people closer together - and now you're getting kicked out?
Economic developers and planners want to attract "Millenials" to downtown? . . . then support the people that are doing it!
If they need to learn about lease agreements that can get tricky, educate new entrepreneurs and  provide all the needed resources if you want businesses to succeed. Isn't there a program for that?

There was a July 24th post [check it out and take a look] on this site about both The Nile Theater and LoFi Coffee. 
LoFi did good things for everybody.
When the rest of Main Street looked like a ghost town out of The Twilight Zone on a Sunday afternoon - things were poppin' on the SWC of Main/Macdonald wrapping all the way down the street to Arts Alley with lines waiting to get admitted to The Underground.
Sidewalks in the rest of downtown were empty: Lofi & The Nile Theater were the only signs of life!
I meant to stop in and talk with the owners to fill in some information for the post, but got side-tracked by some family stuff, while all this apparently "boiled over". 

Details are skimpy from the article written by Maria Polletta . . .read the whole article with this link >  http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/mesa/2015/08/07/downtown-mesas-beloved-lo-fi-coffee-closes-abruptly/31305955/ 

Here are two quotes extracted from the article
"Lo Fi co-owner and coffee roaster Randy Denton said the decision didn’t reflect a desire on his and partner Sam Clark’s part to leave downtown Mesa. Rather, “it just came down to us wanting to go a different direction than what the landlord wanted for that space,” he said."
“I think Sam and I are both trying to be civil about it, but it’s obviously very frustrating that a month before the light rail goes in, this kind of came down,” he said. “It’s a lesson for us. We learned a lot about lease agreements the hard way.”

" . . . kind of came down" ?????
Taking a cue from the new proposed name for the  change in operations of The Nile Theater, Volstead Public House, it can be construed either as a  cute tongue-in-cheek play-on-words or a signal that certain people want to turn back the hands of time to that dark depression-era in American history called Prohibition ushered in by The Volstead Act of 1919 to enforce the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
By 1933 public opposition to the prohibition of the sale of alcohol became overwhelming, with the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Readers might well note that LoFi was recently granted a liquor license by the City Council - it's simply legal to sell alcohol now, even if certain religious sects oppose, discourage or forbid its consumption.
Curiously enough [or not] on December 5, 1933 Utah became the 36th state ratifying the 21st Amendment in The Blaine Act - making it The Law of The Land - that repealed the 18th Amendment voiding prohibition.

There may be a bigger issue frothing to the top of the big picture.
Two questions:
1. Granted there are different points of view, yet there is no clear vision from the community-makers . . What is the direction of downtown development?
2. Who controls the direction of downtown development?
There are people who call themselves as self-titled "directors", but the way we go and the direction we move forward in is better charted when it comes from the community NOT something that's done to the community.
There are many unknowns in this story with people choosing to "lay low" . . . earlier reporting revealed that a previous liquor license for the premises was revoked and recently reinstated weeks ahead of lease renewal. Problems with revenue sharing? Booking fees?

  • Yeah - but why didn't anyone from the city or any circle of friends not try to mediate any issues or disagreements about going in different directions? People can pull together instead of pushing against each other, right?
  • Who's the landlord that decided to kick them out over "a disagreement about different directions"?
  • Is there more of a story here about conservative attitudes of property owners and a different generation now here in town - for four or more years - creating something new?
  • Everyone raves about LoFi - someone pulled away the welcome mat.
  • After creating a sense of place, THEY GET DIS-PLACED for a reason that needs to get examined
There are other issues that are part of this quagmire brought into focus by LoFi that are hitting social media in that August 7th article.
In various conversations with owners of businesses on Main Street for the last couple of months, it came to my attention that one person alone [or affiliated corporations] owned sixteen of the commercial/retail spaces either leased or vacant On/Off Main Street.
Some people have good things to say about their working relationship with the "landlords" or the "landladies" and some not so . . . with retail tenants agreeing, at their own expense, to fix rotten walls and water-damaged floors and pay for the substantial costs to conform to fire code regulations - basic tenets of habitability and getting a certificate of occupancy - that benefit the property owners at the end of the lease.
Likewise, most lessees expressed a well-grounded fear that the asking price for new leases would skyrocket after light rail service goes into full operation.
Is it just a curious coincidence that LoFi lost its lease just before light rail operates????
Years put into building a successful business in anticipation of light rail service, only to have future opportunities knocked out of the picture by "disagreements about direction"???????
In addition it's a proven fact that, with certain variables, property values get a big boost for both commercial and residential along the transit corridor that light rail creates - it's not an outcome that one main can claim, like when the mayor says publicly: "It's my mission to increase property values".

Over the years, yours truly was surprised in talking with many people that live in Gilbert, Chandler and Phoenix that they didn't like Mesa because it's "Mormon-controlled": "Mormons run City Hall" and "Mormons are the biggest property owners".
This is a long-standing image and perception.
Looking at data and statistics from any number of sources, the demographics point out that Mormons are anywhere from 14% to 30% of the population - that would be considered a minority . . . So, dear readers, do we live in a city that's Majority-Minority or are we more diverse than that in the 21st Century?
Are other demographic groups as active in the community?
Do they get involved in public life making Mesa a better place to live? Do they choose to participate in the democratic process by voting? Are they active in civic affairs, stay informed, and attend City Hall/Council and committee meetings - where the public is invited to attend and make comments?
In New York City the Episcopal Church located at the western end of Wall Street is the biggest landlord; unlike the Mormon Church here in Mesa, it does not control the city - there are a diverse group from all over world of believers and non-believers that make the city great arising from embracing, encouraging, and promoting diversity on a level playing field.
Some people might complain about a so-called East Coast "liberal elite" who attended Harvard or Yale or Ivy League universities, but from all appearances there's some kind of exclusive conservative elite - a minority of the population now - here in Mesa and inside City Hall that all went to Brigham Young University.

Here's a Trivia Quiz:
1. How many OTM [Other Than Mormon] mayors have been elected?
2. In what years was the Mesa City Manager OTM?

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