Shot in the Dark Cafe set to close after 14 years of 24-Hour service
Downtown Tucson is no stranger to interesting oddities.
Over the last 14 years, whether it be for one of its massive breakfast burritos, a variety of different blends of coffee or simply a cozy place to poke your head into after a night out, Shot in the Dark Cafe had you covered.
A causality of rent increases due to the “gentrification of downtown,” according to a post on the cafe’s Facebook page, the cafe will close its doors on Jan. 25.
Shot in the Dark is part of a co-op, meaning that it is owned by multiple people who each share the profits it makes.
The rent was originally $1,100 a month, before increasing 400 percent to $4,400, according to Paul Arvizu, an employee involved in the co-op ownership. The employees were alerted Jan. 1 that they were to vacate the building.
Vana Steele, one of the 10 people who work and own the cafe, said she could see it coming long before it happened.
“The landlord said she was raising the rent because property value was increasing downtown,” Steele said. “With the bigger chains coming, I kind of saw it coming eventually.”
Arvizu did not quite see the writing on the wall.
“Everything came out of left field,” Arvizu said. “The landlord came and said she wanted to increase rent by 400 percent over the course of ten months. She was always flexible with us and how we paid rent, so I had no idea it was coming.”
In an article published in the Arizona Daily Star on Thursday, Jan. 10, the landlord in question, building owner Pam Keiser, said the decision came after the cafe failed a health inspection in August due to the power being turned off.
Arvizu said that the situation was not your typical food safety issue.
“The failure was due to the fridges not holding a temperature because of the electricity being shut off,” Arvizu said. “The bookkeeper forgot to pay the bill and ignored the notices sent. We completed everything the health inspector wanted in terms of structural renovations and new equipment.”
The cafe itself is much more than a regular coffee shop.
For years, the cafe has been a safe haven for much of the homeless community that stays around the downtown area.
Past ownership has also fought hard for rights within the LGBTQ community and provided a safe place for people to come without the worry of being judged for any reason.
Arvizu said that the different walks of life you see are part of what make the cafe so special.
“The variety of people is one of the most important parts,” Arvizu said. “You can find business owners and multi-million dollar investors, to people with little to no money in here everyday. It is an awesome and amazing space.”
Being that the cafe is open 24 hours in an area known for a large population of homeless people and the late-night crowds leaving the downtown nightlife, there are some unique challenges that come with operating the cafe.
“A large percentage of the regulars are homeless, because it is a place to stay warm overnight,” Steele said. “Keeping people awake and making sure they have purchased something are some of the bigger problems we see. The drunk people can also cause problems sometimes.”
As for the employees, the rent increase has directly affected the monthly profits they share.
While most do have second jobs and will not be without work during the closure, Steele said that owners have made “less than $1 an hour” during their shifts at the cafe.
While the closing of the downtown location might come as sad news to those who have been frequenting it for years, there is hope.
A GoFundMe has been started in hopes of getting started on relocation, including a storage unit and down payment on a new place.
“We would like to stay downtown,” Steele said. “We’ve mostly been looking here and near Campbell. We will probably make a few changes, but most of the menu and hours will probably stay the same.”
Follow Mark Lawson on Twitter