The Anarchist, a coffee shop in Toronto, Canada, that functioned on a “pay what you can” system, will close at the end of the month after slightly more than one year in business.
Gabriel Sims-Fewer, the owner of The Anarchist, said in an expletive-filled announcement on the company’s website that he appreciated the opportunity to experiment with “living and working in ways that don’t enthusiastically embrace the pure misanthropy of capitalism.” He blamed the failure of his anti-capitalist business venture for the lack of “seed capital” from “ethically bankrupt sources,” which left him “unable to weather the quiet winter season, or to grow in the ways needed to be sustainable longer-term.”
“The Anarchist has been a huge success in every way I hoped, and has given me so much inspiration and education that I plan to put to use in future projects,” he told his customers. “F*** the rich. F*** the police. F*** the state. F*** the colonial death camp we call ‘Canada.’ Solidarity.”
Sims-Fewer previously wrote on a frequently asked questions page that his “pay what you can” pricing scheme for drip coffee was meant to make coffee more affordable, admitting that the model gradually lost him money despite the hope that the losses would be counterbalanced by more expensive items. “I hate how everything in specialty coffee is so inaccessible to working class people, and inhospitable to everyone but the white upper middle class,” he had written on the website. “That’s also why I continue to scrutinise my prices and look for opportunities to lower them. Maybe when the shop has a couple more workers, allowing us to make significantly more drinks per day, we’ll be able to do an across-the-board price cut.”
The entrepreneur had also apologized for the fact that he is a “white, cisgender” man by noting that he is also “queer” and vowing to hiring people outside of his “particular intersection of privileges.”
“The best thing I think I can do is hire people who aren’t white, cisgender, heterosexual men, make them equal owners, and follow their lead in making the place less white-male-centered than the industry standard,” he had remarked. “That’s what I’m working towards.”
Beyond the apparent lack of access to capital faced by The Anarchist, businesses in Canada have been severely impacted by government lockdowns and vaccine mandates over the past three years. Sims-Fewer announced on the coffee shop’s social media last March that proof of vaccination would be required for dining in the restaurant. Other posts included a depiction of police officers hung by the neck under the slogan “ACAB,” as well as a statement which read “the queen was sh** and should have died sooner,” an ostensible reference to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who served as the monarch of Canada and other commonwealth realms.
The Anarchist is not the first small business founded on explicitly leftist principles to recently fail in spectacular fashion: Mina’s World, a coffee shop in Philadelphia known for its LGBTQ brand identity, shuttered last year after employees revolted against the owners and demanded that they “redistribute” the company and its resources. A social media page called the “Mina’s World Workers” started posting accusations against the ownership, claiming they had subjected workers to “manipulation, abuse of power, exploitation, anti-blackness, ableism,” and other charges summarized in a “List of Grievances.”