66 HOPE CAFE - WHEN BULLSHIT IS COMMONPLACE FOR SO LONG THAT YOU FINALLY SNAP OVER SOMETHING DOESN'T REALLY MATTER AT ALL
It takes a lot for me to write something negative about a small independent business. Making rent is tough, and doing more than that is success. But this one goddamned place was so egregiously weird and offensive that I'm almost excited to put it down in writing.
My girlfriend has been a regular at 66 Hope Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a month or two. She raved about the place. Loved it. Wanted everyone to go there. Bugged me about going there for weeks, until we finally had a moment where our morning schedules aligned enough for me to snag some time in the morning before commuting to work in order to hang out there with her for a bit. I arrived first. The couple who own the place seemed a little overly excited to be alive, but hey, Monday doesn't have to hurt everyone.
I ordered a coffee, realized it was cash only, got cash, paid for the coffee. Pleases and thank yous. Everything was nice and cordial and perfectly fine. I wait outside for my GF to arrive. I smoke a cigarette. I hang out for a second. I go back in. The couple that own the place smile at me, I smile at them, we're all friends. My girlfriend arrives, sits down next to me, and smiles and waves at the owners. They don't wave back.
Let me insert here that there were maybe ten people in the cafe at this point. The cafe's capacity looks to be maybe forty to fifty people. My GF sits down next to me, I'm sipping my coffee, and she's putting down her bags. We're just getting settled. The owner lady waves at my GF impatiently, gesturing to the coffee machines, clearly demanding that she buy something. I'm still sipping my coffee. My girlfriend looks a little surprised and makes the "yes, just one moment" motion with her hand. The woman immediately walks over to us and demands that we leave, because: "We're a small business and can't afford to have people sitting in our cafe without buying anything and just lounging around. Thank you for understanding."
This all happened in under thirty seconds. We just sat there, totally gobsmacked. We got up and left. In my dizzy haze of shock at being ushered out of an almost empty coffee shop as a paying customer, I ordered a refill for the road. She charged me three dollars and filled my cup half way. She then said: "Thank your for understanding by leaving." I responded with "I don't actually understand." And then we left.
Now, here's the thing: it is absolutely fine and acceptable and, frankly, expected, for a cafe (or any small business) to have a set of rules that shape and guide what the experience will be for the customers and the employees. I actually really like it when businesses stick to their guns. 66 Hope Cafe has a no cell phone rule that I fully support. The Alamo Drafthouse removes people from their theater if they talk during a movie, and I silently applaud every time. But this is a completely out of touch, entitled, and crazed way of treating your customers. The owners honestly gave us no time to buy anything, get comfortable, or decide if we wanted to be there, before they ushered us out with hilariously Dickensian brusqueness.
If you're going to own and operate a small cafe, you have two things you can rely on: the quality of your product/environment, and the word of mouth of people who deliberately go out of their way to find your place instead of going to Starbucks. You, as a small business owner, absolutely rely on impressing the people that come into contact with your business. If you're going to alienate the very people whom you rely on to survive economically, then you'll inevitably, and deservedly, fail.
I cannot and will not recommend this place to anyone. And, judging by the responses that they've given to the other negative reviews that have been written about them, they'll probably respond to this review (if they respond at all, which I'd prefer they didn't) with a similarly out-of-touch, blame-shifting response that highlights the exact attitude that makes them a sub-par establishment.
Anyway, best of luck, 66 Hope Cafe - you're gonna need a lot of it if you keep losing customers like this. I'll be sticking with The West.