The Garden Diner and Café, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a vegan worker-run "collective" formerly known as the Bartertown Diner, shut down this week after a five-year run as reality overcame devotion to communist principles.
The restaurant promised a “living wage” to all employees and a strong union; that promise should have been enough to predict its demise, and indeed, it was.
Customers complained about waiting over 40 minutes for a sandwich; the restaurant’s hours were variable because the hours were set by group decision, and the restaurant often publicly espoused its devotion to communist heroes and principles, even featuring a mural of Marxist leaders and murderers Che Guevara and Mao Zedong making and serving vegetarian food.
The restaurant’s creator, Ryan Cappelletti, told MLive in 2011, "Because of our economy, people are working 12- to-15-hour shifts, servers take home $200 to $300 a night in tips, the cooks are making $10 an hour and the owner takes whatever he takes. We're going to have equal pay and equal say across the board. Everyone working together."
As Heat Street reported, “When the diner offered a free meal to Grand Rapids police officers as a ‘thank you’ for keeping their neighborhood safe, local socialists complained that the business was abrogating its core ideals by siding with fascists and supporting ‘nearly all-white police force in this era of police violence.’”
Thad Cummings, an original investor who took over in March of this year, told MLive, "It had never been a worker-owned restaurant. That was a misnomer. We still bought locally and paid living wages."
One Reddit user summed up: “They were too concerned with the whole ... 'social justice' angle, and seemed to not care if they had a viable product. You cant make payroll and your bills with Facebook and Tumblr 'likes.’ Now the staff is unemployed. That's the real shame!"