The Red & Black is in trouble. Our finances have reached a crisis point. This situation has been brewing for many months as our cash flow slowlydried up. To be blunt: we are unable to make our mortgage payment on time and we’ve bounced checks to some of our vendors and staff. A couple of days ago at our collective meeting we contemplated shutting our doors for good.
So what happened? Like many other local restaurants after 4+ years of recession (depression?): we need more business. In this economy many people have less money to eat out. Our situation is compounded by the fact that we have never had anything near a comfortable amount of working capital. We attempted to raise sufficient capital during the fundraising drive we held when we decided to buy our building. While we did raise enough money to make our down payment, we were far from our goal. This left the collective financially vulnerable to the point that a slow month could bankrupt us.
This is why, a few months ago, the money we raised to replace our broken window was eaten up by operating expenses. We apologize to everyone who contributed to that fund. Our financial situation has left us to make due with subpar equipment which slows us down. It also means running out of menu items and ingredients when we are unable to afford to restock them. The more we stress about money and the day to day of keeping the doors open, the less time and energy we have to figure out what needs to be done to turn things around.
While there are several things we do that don’t make a lot of business sense, financially, they are things we refuse to compromise on. We are welcoming to unhoused folks who often can’t afford to spend money at the cafe. We make most of our food from scratch which is labor intensive and because our ingredients are (mostly) organic, they are more expensive. We are also much more than just a restaurant. We are a community space; specifically we are a radical, queer-positive safer space; an important hub for many overlapping grassroots political projects, a cop-free zone, an amazing vegan restaurant, a music venue, a hangout and meeting space for Industrial Workers of the World union members, a low income collective household upstairs— the list goes on. In order to meet this challenge head on we’re making changes that we believe will not only avert catastrophe, but put us on a path of financial sustainability.
The most dramatic and immediate change is that we’ve decided to work without pay until we can turn this situation around. This decision is both difficult and easy to make. Difficult because we, as individuals, can’t afford it for long and because we are a closed union shop with the goal of paying ourselves a living wage. But the decision is also easy because the alternative is something none of us want: losing the Red and Black. So we are fundraising $20,000 in donations, gift certificates and merchandise sales. This amount would not only cover our current obligations, it would mean having an adequate amount of working capital for the first time. We would be able to afford to go back to a paid wage, to purchase adequate equipment, fix the window, and keep the building.
This is a crucial time for the Red and Black and we need your help! We will temporarily be changing our hours to handle the burden of unpaid work. Most of all we want everyone to know that as much as capitalism tries to beat us down, we’re determined to keeping pushing on! Thank you so much for your support!
Please visit our website www.redandblackcafe.com to donate and Twitter @redandblackcafe for updates on our hours and menu. ‘Like’ us on Facebook and get regular updates at www.facebook.com/redandblackcafe (please also hover over the ‘Like’ button on our page & check “show in news feed”) Now is the time to schedule meetings, events, live music, films, book readings, workshops etc. etc. at the Red & Black. The stuff you do at the cafe is what makes it a community space! It’s easy just go here: www.redandblackcafe.com/event-booking. Thanks so much!