Virginia County Cracks Down on Immigrant Coffee Klatsch
Since 1997, immigrants hailing from North Africa and the Middle East have met at a Starbucks in Falls Church, Virginia to mix, mingle, and help each other adjust to This American Life. In late June, however, the outdoor tables and chairs where they've liked to hang all disappeared.
Apparently back in May a concerned community member had complained to the local (Fairfax) county government about the Starbucks' outdoor seating area, which prompted the county to send out an inspector to check for things such as "whether the original site plan for the strip mall where this Starbucks is located actually provides for outdoor seating," and "whether you can please get everyone in the office a venti decaf skim Coco-Lococchino so we can last till 5 PM." The inspector determined that the seating area violated the strip mall's sacred site plan after all, and made the Starbucks remove it.
Of course, this all happened right around the time that the Washington Post featured the caffeine-seeking community of immigrants on its front page, so some people speculated that maybe some post-9/11 Patriot-types had raised a fuss—or that the Starbucks wanted to draw some of that hip, youthful vibe they'd heard was totally revolutionizing D.C. But no.
The Starbucks hopes to restore the seating area in some way that complies with the strip mall's site plan (which will have to be changed in order to meet Fairfax County's guidelines) and make their outdoor area pro-community once again. Meantime, we're adding this incident to our list of cases of sidewalk anti-freedom, along with the checkers guy and the oppressed "loiterers" of Missouri. Because seriously: only jerks complain about things like outdoor seating.