Ink! Coffee in Five Points Tagged “White Coffee” by Vandal Following Gentrification Controversy

Joe Rubino, Denver Post, November 24, 2017

Someone spray painted “white coffee” on the wall at ink! Coffee in Five Points and broke a window there in what appears to have been retaliation for a sign the business placed out front this week that read, “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.”

The sandwich board sign sparked outrage — and drew national attention — when local writer and event organizer Ru Johnson shared a picture of it on her Twitter account Wednesday afternoon. Johnson, who has contributed to The Denver Post’s Reverb and The Know sections, added the caption “yo @inkcoffee we are not cool with this sign on 29th and Larimer. Bad decision. Bad design. BAD. W.T.F.”

The sign went viral on social media, motivating so many one-star reviews and angry posts on ink’s Facebook page Wednesday night that the coffee-shop chain shut down the review function.

The Aspen-born company apologized for the sign Wednesday, first with a short message on Twitter and Facebook and later with a longer statement from founder and CEO Keith Herbert. But many people made it clear they did not feel the responses, some of which cast the sign as a joke, were enough.

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The gentrification sign itself, a manufactured, metal sandwich board that on the back side read “Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado,” was stolen by a man on a skateboard Wednesday evening, according to Johnson. The Post has not confirmed the theft.

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Herbert issued a third statement Thursday afternoon via ink’s Twitter account. {snip}

“When our advertising firm presented this campaign to us, I interpreted it as taking pride in being part of a dynamic, evolving community that is inclusive of people of all races, ethnicity, religions and gender identities,” Herbert said the statement. “I recognize now that we had a blind spot to other legitimate interpretations.”

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“In hindsight, our campaign was callous, naive and uninformed to the true character of the neighborhood and to those who have long called it home,” the post reads. “We assure those within the local community and throughout Denver that the literal contents of the sign do not represent the values we hold as an agency or as individuals.”

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A public demonstration will be held outside the store from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Dubbed, “We Don’t Drink Ink,” the event is intended to highlight the negative impacts of recent redevelopment of Five Points has had on the many black and Latino families who lived there for years, organizer Tay Anderson said. More than 440 people had confirmed they plan to attend the event by Thursday afternoon.

“They need to know that their actions speak very loudly,” Anderson said of ink. “And it hurt a lot of us African-Americans who grew up in the community to see a sign that said, ‘Hey, we’ve been taking over your community since 2014.”

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He said ink’s apologies have not passed muster yet and he hopes their CEO and the managers of the Five Points store will sit down with him and community leaders to talk about the thought process behind the sign.

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Anderson also has a message for local politicians who may attend the event: It’s not a photo opportunity. If you don’t mean to get involved in addressing the problem, don’t come, he said.

“Our city council and mayor are responsible for a lot of the gentrification that has happened and pushed African-Americans out of the community,” he said.

[Editor’s Note: Steve Sailer’s discussion of this incident can be found here.]

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