Kaffeeklatsch endured its first year in business and then sustained its operations despite a raging pandemic that left at least a dozen local businesses with their doors shuttered.
Now, the coffee shop turned nightclub/drag ballroom/art gallery/boutique clothing store and all ages space has a new threat to its existence: a $10,000 repair to a deteriorating facade.
The warped, damaged laminate board is showing beneath the peeling paint of the frontage and the deterioration of the facade poses a major risk of damaging the building, which is almost a century old: it was built in 1925.
The landlord says the business needs to fix the repair or default on its lease, potentially the final straw for a young business that has already overcome so many challenges since it opened its storefront on Halloween 2020 in the former Bamboo Lounge space of the Drum ’n’ Monkey.
“Our survival is at stake”
Kaffeeklatsch owner Jessica Mccarrel wasn’t sure what to expect when she created a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the repairs. The business was already facing a difficult year and the unexpected cost is the biggest obstacle the business has faced yet.
“We tried to fix it ourselves. But after attempting to do so, we’ve realized that this project clearly lies beyond our DIY punk rock capabilities,” Mccarrel said on the campaign page.
“We have high fixed expenses, cash flow is tight, and we need to repair the facade or risk defaulting on our lease. To make that clear: if we don’t fix this, we may not be able to continue to exist.”
Luckily, the community has come through
However, in just a few short days since she launched the campaign, she’s already raised almost 70 per cent of her goal. Mccarrel admits the week has been an emotional rollercoaster, but she is overwhelmed with the support from the community.
“The response from the community has been so heartwarming, so beautiful, so generous,” she told Calgary Citizen, adding that people were offering not only donations but help in other ways, too.
“There’s been a lot of donations but also a lot of people sharing the campaign and rallying, not only for Kaffeeklatsch but for venues in general, especially venues that are queer-friendly, accessible, and alternative. There’s not that many left in the city.”
Speaking to a bigger issue
Mccarrel believes the outpouring of support speaks to a larger issue about the need for safe spaces, accessible spaces, and live venues.
“When the pandemic hit, I think there was an article that said 14 venues were lost due to COVID,” she says, pointing to popular haunts such as Oak Tree, The HiFi Club, and Tubby Dog closing during the pandemic.
“These were very valuable cultural spaces that also allowed for performing artists to perform. It’s not just us, we’ve seen other live venues sort of being pushed out and not properly supported,” she says.
More than just a coffee shop
While Mccarrel says her business was already at a financial crossroads, things were starting to get better recently.
“Even a few months ago, we lost $20,000. The winters are tough. But now that the weather’s changed, we are starting to get more people coming through.”
That and the space has become more than a coffee shop; it’s a micro-club.
“We created an all-ages space where artists, musicians, youth, and queer, trans and marginalized folks safely gather and form meaningful connections. We’ve seen friendships, mentorships, and community grow and flourish in our cafe,” she says, adding she knows how badly the community needs a space like theirs.
“We love the beautiful, passionate community that has been growing around Kaffeeklatsch, and we want to keep fostering connections and growing our safe, all-ages space.”
An ongoing campaign
The goal is to raise $10,000 to help with the repairs with any extra funds raised above that point to go towards developing the space’s club nights, queer dance parties, and learn-to-DJ programs.
“In other words, any money raised beyond the amount necessary to repair the facade will go back into developing the community and providing the community with opportunities,” Mccarrel adds.
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