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Coffee Shop's Gentrification Joke Doesn't Go Over Well With Community

Trouble was brewing at a Denver coffee shop when a sign, meant to be a joke, outraged the local community. The shop owners ate some humble pie and apologized to locals after they were forced to close down. They've reopened and hope to move forward with the community.

Ink! Coffee shop got into hot water when they displayed a sign on the sidewalk last week that read, "Happily Gentrifying the Neighborhood Since 2014."

On the back of the sign, it read, “Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado.”

The coffee shop is a chain that hit the downtown Denver area a couple of years ago. The sign inspired a lot of anger and frustration in the historically diverse neighborhood and outrage quickly spread over social media.

Protesters joined together on Saturday to demonstrate in front of the shop, which resulted in it closing down for a couple of days.

“This was blatant and meant to be mean,” said a local whose family had lived in the area for generations. “When you have multiple layers of staff, that means you have dozens of eyes that looked at this and said, ‘let’s do it'... That tells me that that’s how they actually think.”

According to studies by the University of California Berkeley and UCLA, nearly a quarter of low-income people of color are typically pushed out of their own long-time neighborhoods after wealthy white people begin buying properties.

While restoration of an old, crumbling neighborhood is not a bad thing in itself, once the renewed neighborhood becomes trendy it drives up prices so high that it ceases to become a neighborhood that the low-income residents can afford.

Using the term gentrification in a diverse neighborhood is offensive to many because of the implications that the neighborhood is being ‘white washed’, or pushing out minorities. For many people of color, gentrification is just not funny.

Some protesters went too far. One wrote 'White Coffee' on the side of the building with spray paint. Another threw a brick through the coffee shop's window.

Founder of the chain, Keith Herbert, came forward to issue an apology and an explanation for the gentrification joke. Initially, he didn't mean any offense by it; he thought that the shop was taking place in an inclusive neighborhood with a 'dynamic, evolving community'.

He says he did not 'fully appreciate the very real and troubling issue of gentrification'.

According to Herbert, he now realizes that the joke was out of line. He plans to correct it by educating himself and his colleagues about the issue.

"I recognize that we had a blind spot to other legitimate interpretations. I sincerely apologize - absolutely and unequivocally," he says.

Herbert also wrote a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to issue a personal apology. Hancock's office released the letter to the public on Monday. "I am embarrassed that we failed our local community and for the anger, frustration and disappointment many of our neighbors are feeling," Herbert said.

Source: Yahoo
Photos: YouTube, Pixnio

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