Regulars shocked as popular Delray Beach coffee shop forced out by landlord

Gives away free coffee/food to thank customers
Posted at 8:16 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 09:07:26-04

A staple in Delray Beach shut its doors for the last time on Monday night.

After three years of business on the popular Atlantic Avenue, Subculture Coffee, which also operates their flagship location in downtown West Palm Beach, announced suddenly Monday morning that they're being forced out of the Delray Beach shop.

Owners say it’s a longtime battle with their landlord, but Delray Beach city leaders say the incident highlights a bigger problem for businesses in the area.

Regulars were shocked Monday morning to see signs of the closure posted throughout the business.

"Super bummed! I had no idea," said Serena Chase, a regular customer who discovered the coffee shop with her mother. "Super cool vibes, great people, great coffee."

She's one of the hundreds caught off guard when they stopped by for a cup of their favorite joe.

"Who works really hard to acquire a customer base and then all of a sudden have the rug pulled right underneath them," said Clyde Mazza, a longtime Delray Beach resident.

Subculture Coffee Delray announced on social media Monday morning that after a two year battle with their landlord over a bizarre technicality in their lease, the shop is being forced to leave and find a new location.

The post reads, "Along with the dramatic increase in property values in Delray, comes greedy landlords looking for any excuse to kick out existing tenants despite them paying rent on time."

Managers and the business owner of Subculture Coffee wouldn’t talk on camera or say what disagreement caused their landlord to kick them out, but they did say that the situation completely blindsided them.

All day Monday, the shop offered free coffee, drinks and food as their way of saying thank you to customers.

"Keep a good thought in the back of your mind that if they are ever opening back again somewhere on the Avenue, I will be the first one to come back and support them like I've been supporting them," said Mazza.

Mazza is a Subculture regular and a former business owner. He says he knows the pains of operating in a busy area.

“I have the impression that they’re really trying to push the individual ownership out of downtown Delray so they can get the big rents they’re getting from stores like Urban Outfitters," he said.

Delray Beach City Commissioner Mitch Katz said in the last few years they've had a big problem with small businesses being able to survive on Atlantic Avenue.

"It's definitely concerning," he said. "Recently last week, the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) board approved millions of dollars in subsidies for a national chain movie theater while we have small businesses suffering and not being able to pay the rent."

Even though Subculture had no problem paying rent, Katz says the city can do more to help small business stay in downtown.

"These big corporations they know how to find money but the small guy doesn't really know where these resources are and we need to be more proactive to help them," he said. "We need to have more businesses West of Swinton, and more opportunity there to be able to move there and with some help from the CRA maybe rent subsidies and things like that help small businesses."

Katz said he put the managers in touch with the city's economic development director to help them with rent assistance and finding a new place.

Subculture management says they hope to find a new place within walking distance hopefully in the next three to six months. They plan to have a meeting soon to help their current employees with their next step. Some employees we spoke to said they want to come back to work for the new shop once it opens up.

Customers are staying positive, too.

"It's sad to see good things go away, but we're hearing they're gonna be back. So they can find better landlords, find a better place to be -- it'll be good for all of us when they get back to this, it'll be great," said Glenn Smith, another regular customer.

We couldn't reach the landlord for comment on this story.

Managers said the West Palm Beach location is doing very well and will celebrate its three-year anniversary this weekend.

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