Toronto’s anti-capitalist cafe saved from closing by donations

An anti-capitalist cafe that opened last May in Toronto, Canada, announced last week that it was going to close on May 30 due to failure to, wait for it, make a profit — or as the owner of the cafe put it, “lack of generational wealth/seed capital from ethically bankrupt sources.”

The cafe, called The Anarchist, described itself as “an anti-capitalist, anti-colonial cafe, shop and radical community space on stolen land.” Although for a shop describing itself as anti-capitalist and trying to reach working-class people, the owner still charged high prices. As he explained on the website, this was to ensure that the cafe still makes enough money to stay open and support his livelihood. What a shocker! The shop, which had a “pay what you can model” — only for coffee — essentially subsidized the “pay what you can model” by charging higher prices on all the other drinks. According to some news sources, even locals couldn’t afford to go there due to the high prices.

Interestingly enough, this system didn’t work. My best assumption is that maybe people did not want to pay exorbitant prices for regular drinks to subsidize coffee. On May 10, the owner put out the following statement announcing that the store was closing.

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. Unfortunately, the lack of generational wealth/seed capital from ethically bankrupt sources left me unable to weather the quiet winter season or to grow in the ways needed to be sustainable longer-term.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Pop Coffee Works, my coffee supplier and landlords, for their generosity and patience; they could easily have sold this space, or rented for more than twice what they’ve charged me, so this place wouldn’t have existed without them.

Three days ago, the cafe announced that it had received donations that would let it stay open.

But maybe — just maybe — if your business has to be saved from closing by donations, that should be a sign that your business model is unsustainable — and not a success. After all, there is a reason capitalism has successfully lifted billions of people around the globe from poverty and continues to do so.

By the way, under the Cafe’s website FAQ, on the question, “but how can you be anti-capitalist if you sell things?” the answer is just “lol.”