On January 14, Black Coffee Northwest — the new Shoreline cafe that aims to empower local youth through a barista training program and a space for social justice work — decided to close for two days after a series of racist attacks. According to the cafe’s social media posts, someone drew swastikas on the outside of the building; the cafe recently received threatening emails; and people have been showing up to verbally harass baristas at the shop’s drive-thru window.
During its brief closure, the cafe says it will step up security measures, including installing an updated alarm system and conducting safety training among staff. It will also look to provide its employees with mace and other self-defense supplies, while creating an intercom system at the drive-thru with cameras for extra precaution. The plan is to reopen the morning of January 15.
This is not the first time Black Coffee NW was confronted with racist threats. Back in late September, right before the shop was originally set to debut, someone threw molotov cocktails at the building. The exterior of the shop was damaged by the arsonist, but thankfully no one was injured. The attack delayed the cafe’s debut by a couple of weeks, pushing its grand opening back to this past October.
Authorities are currently looking into both that incident and the most recent ones, but haven’t released any updates. Shoreline police are offering a $10,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of the arsonist.
When asked by local news outlet King5 whether the owners of the shop believed the arson was racially motivated, co-owner DarNesha Weary said, “Absolutely. I think people know who we are. We’re unapologetic for who we are. We have shown up for the Black community, especially in this area where there is not a lot of representation.” Weary later told Eater Seattle in October, “We’re still getting some threats, people questioning why we’re calling ourselves Black Coffee, accusing us of racism. I’m just like, ‘Then just don’t come.’ We still have a large community that supports us.”
Black Coffee NW received a wave of support again in the wake of the latest disturbing events, and messages on social media included words of encouragement from other local businesses such as the Central District’s new restaurant Communion (“stay safe ya’ll … and protect your energy”). The cafe and nonprofit also put out a general call for more resources, supplies, and services to help keep their baristas safe.
“We cannot back down. We have to keep going,” Weary told King5. “We’re not gonna see the big change right now. It’s generations to come. We want to keep the work going.”
A spokesperson for the King’s County sheriff’s department said, “because this remains an active and on-going case we are, at this time, unable to share updates.” Eater Seattle reached out to the Black Coffee Northwest co-owners, and will update this article if more information becomes available.