The Red and Black Cafe, Southeast Portland's vegan, worker-owned coffee bar and restaurant, needs $50,000 by the end of the month so it can buy its current space. As of Monday afternoon, it had collected about $42,000 in cash and other pledges of money.
Why's this anti-establishment establishment hungry for cash? Red and Black co-owner John Langley says the current owners of the building at 400 SE 12th St. offered the space for sale at the beginning of January, and the café decided to make a bid.
If the Red and Black raises the $50,000 necessary for the down payment–and Langley said he expects to make the mark—the second floor of the building will be converted into low-income group housing. With help from Portland Collective Housing, a member-owned, resident-controlled housing cooperative, the Red and Black aims to launch its own housing nonprofit to manage the second-floor space.
Langley said there will be five bedrooms, plus living and dining areas (take note, wanna-be residents: Langley said the space is "awesome," with 16-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and French doors).
Downstairs, the café itself will see little change. But Langley stressed that ownership of the building will bring financial security and ensure sustainability. The Red and Black moved to its current site after being threatened with rent hikes at its previous location. Now, Langley said, the café will not be subject to the whims of a landlord or changes in building ownership.
And with the Red and Black's anarchist reputation (the café attracted national attention after kicking out a cop in May 2010), Langley said property ownership may protect the café from landlords who hold antagonistic views.
"The biggest change is going to be the peace of mind, knowing that we're there to stay," Langley said. "We can take time doing what we want to do, not worrying if we're going to get kicked out next year."