Gentrification Is No Laughing Matter — Unless You're at Ink! Coffee

RiNo residents aren't so happy about this sign at Ink! Coffee.
RiNo residents aren't so happy about this sign at Ink! Coffee.
Miranda C.
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Gentrification is a serious issue for many Denverites, who feel that the surge of expensive new apartment buildings and businesses in formerly low-rent neighborhoods has driven out longtime residents, leaving fewer and fewer affordable options. Classism and racism go hand in hand with gentrification, opponents of unfettered growth claim.

So perhaps gentrification humor is the wrong way to sell coffee.

Ink! Coffee posted a sign outside its shop at 2851 Larimer Street this morning that read "Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014." The sign has since disappeared; comments on Facebook suggest that a skateboarder may have absconded with it — or perhaps the flood of complaints, both at the shop and on social media, convinced Ink management that the sign was in poor taste.

Since about noon today, more than forty one-star reviews decrying the inappropriateness of the sign (which according to some reports read "Nothing says gentrification better than a fresh brewed cortado" on the opposite side) have appeared on Yelp, with more outraged people chiming in on Ink's Facebook page.

Here are a few samples of the backlash:

We called the coffeehouse shortly after the first comments started pouring in, and an employee on duty asked us to call back because he was notifying the police (presumably about the theft of the sign, not the criminally poor sense of humor). Since then, we've been unable to get through and can only reach Ink's voice mail. Ink has since posted an apology on its Facebook page, however:

Hmmm. We clearly drank too much of our own product and lost sight of what makes our community great. We sincerely apologize for our street sign. Our (bad) joke was never meant to offend our vibrant and diverse community. We should know better. We hope you will forgive us.

The neighborhood surrounding Ink! is a big part of the gentrification debate in Denver; older residents object to the name RiNo (which stems from the River North Art District) and to the influx of hip new shops and eateries. While many of the blocks of Walnut, Blake and Larimer streets held nothing but warehouses and factories until recently, growth has driven up the cost of housing, and older homes and apartment buildings nearby have been leveled to make way for new condos and townhouses. Neighborhood bars have disappeared, and those remaining, like Phil's Place, cling to life despite many offers to sell out.

In a political climate when tensions run high and humor is a rare commodity, the ink was barely dry on Ink's sign before the wrath came down.

And it's not disappearing soon: A "We Don't Drink Ink" protest has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, November 25.

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