Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Drinking Coffee Together

Coffeehouse book club

Coffee, author Richard Brookhiser once wrote, is the "elixir of life". There is something so unspeakably good about a piping hot cup of joe (milk and two sugars, please!). My father, whose first language is Italian, will often say "paradiso!" after taking a sip of his k-cup coffee. 

I, for one, am an unabashed caffeine addict. Coffee, to me, is an evocative drink. That is to say, it evokes feelings of comfort, safety, decompression, nostalgia, and even...community.  

In post-COVID America, though, many of these little coffee shops have lost their unique communitarian character. 

Alan Ehrenhalt, author of The Lost City, wrote about the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local coffeehouses in Governing

Alan Ehrenhalt

Coffeeshops are not just places to get a quick fix of caffeine; they are hubs of community life! Cafes are often venues for book clubs, game clubs, first dates, and so on...  

During the pandemic, however, cafes were stripped of their seating and converted into what Michael Berne, President of MJB Consulting, calls "utilitarian caffeine dispensers" or "UCDs". Because of COVID's easily transmissible nature, medical authorities thought it wise to undergo "social distancing" (need I remind you of this dystopian part of our recent past?). Anyway, this meant no more seating! If a cafĂ© did have seats, they were sparse and spread out in a way that was unconducive to social gatherings. 

COVID-era restaurant 

In essence, COVID sanitized (in more ways than one) coffeeshops, turning them into cold, barren places to get overpriced drinks. The social component was effectively squashed. 

Many of these, once bustling, community centers, Ehrenhalt points out, were promptly replaced by furniture-less, efficiency-maximizing coffee kiosks. These are fundamentally anti-communitarian pop-up shops. 

Perhaps you've seen them around...

With COVID now in the rearview mirror, it's time that we bring back these little caffeinated platoons, furniture and all! 



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