If you have ever been to a coffee shop chances are you have seen a sidewalk sandwich-board sign outside of the business that displays a fun and lighthearted comment or meme related to coffee.
Well, Denver, Colorado, coffeehouse chain Ink! Coffee missed the mark when it attempted to make light of gentrification.
— ashley yates (@brownblaze) November 23, 2017
“Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014” reads one sign, while another reads “Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado.”
The signs immediately received backlash on social media, while the actual coffee shop had a window broken and the words “White Coffee” painted on it in response to the signs. 200 people also went to the business to protest this past Saturday.
Ink! Coffee is located near Five Points, a once largely black neighborhood, in a former industrial area that is now home to a handful of breweries, restaurants, and apartments, which has driven up rent prices and forced many longtime residents to move.
Following the backlash, Ink! Coffee founder Keith Herbert called the signs a bad joke and added that it was a part of an advertising campaign. He has since apologized, according to a report from The Gazette.
“When our advertising firm presented this campaign to us, I interpreted it as taking pride in being part of a dynamic, evolving community that is inclusive of people of all races, ethnicities, religions and gender identities,” Herbert said in the statement. “I recognize now that we had a blind spot to other legitimate interpretations.”
Still, many residents are disappointed with the coffee shop and want to see the Five Points location closed down.
“We find no humor in racism. We find no humor in privilege. What looks like a great opportunity for some is really displacement for many,” Sondra Young, the president of Denver’s NAACP, said to the Denver Post. “Community doesn’t look like just the people that can afford $2,000-a-month rent. People that are low-income have something to add to the community, too.”