The Artspace building has long been a place where artists have been able to reside and work in Salt Lake City on meager incomes. Housed in the building is the local coffee shop A Cup of Joe, which has been open to the artist and peace communities and other progressive groups, opening its doors to events for these groups at little or no cost.
Many of the tenants of Artspace including A Cup of Joe are facing extreme, intolerant and likely illegal action by the new management company Evergreen Management Company. Some section 8 tenants are being told they owe additional money because there is a “problem with their paperwork,” but are not being told what the problem is, or how they can resolve it. Others, including A Cup of Joe, who have had trouble making their rent are not being allowed, per the terms of their leases, to make payment plans. The management company is refusing to return calls from tenants, and summarily turning accounts over for legal action.
Not only is this creating additional financial burden for the tenants, it is emptying the building of artists who form the core of the avant-garde arts community of Salt Lake City. In addition, it is threatening the existence of A Cup of Joe, the anchor of the spoken word poetry community and Salt City Slam, and an important gathering place for progressive groups. Kristy Gonzalez, the current owner, has in particular, reached out to the community and provided a performance space for music and comedy groups, avant-garde theatre, the peace sign birthday party, a memorial service for Sister Maryam Mohammed who was an active artist and musician in our community. Kristy has encouraged the collaging of the tables by community groups, is a pickup point for a Community Sustainable Agriculture farm, a member of the People’s Market and Buy Local First Utah. She has provided space for People for Peace and Justice, local artists and musicians, Guardian Angels, Queer Spirit, the Nine Muses Project. While Joe’s has been near and dear to our hearts for years, Kristy has done so much in the year and a half she has owned Joe’s to make it truly a foundation of the community. We are in danger of losing Joe’s.
What can we do? There are legal costs to be met, and possibly a rent shortfall. Kristy and the other tenants have legal and publicity help at the moment. What Kristy needs is more customers, and community awareness of the problem of losing locally-owned, community-dedicated businesses. Here’s what we can do:
**Talk up Cup of Joe whenever you can.
**Eat and drink at Joe’s as often as you can. Highly recommended are the crepes and the ice cream.
**If you sponsor a community group that has benefited from Joe’s generosity in the past, consider a donation to help them out.
There will be a “marathon community gathering” on July 18 and 19 at Cup of Joe with poets, musicians, artists and local businesses. Details will be published here as soon as they are available.
A Cup of Joe is located at 353 West 200 South in Salt Lake City.