Breaking News
More () »

'People feel unsafe': Portland coffee shop closes downtown location

Coava Coffee is the latest business to close near Southwest 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street, citing increased violence and crime.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Another downtown Portland business is calling it quits. 

Coava Coffee on the corner of Southwest 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street announced Monday that its last day in that location would be Thursday. The business cited extreme violence and criminal activity that has gotten increasingly worse. Coava’s remaining two locations on Southeast Hawthorne and Southeast Grand will remain open.

"All of us at the café feel a little distraught," said barista Chance McCloud.

Despite the emotional toil of the closure, McCloud noted that staying open was not a safe option.

"We had a window that was shattered during business hours and we also had a chair thrown last Wednesday at this window," McCloud said. "People feel unsafe and it's very traumatizing."

McCloud said he and other employees wanted to work at Coava to make good coffee in a safe in an inviting space for people to enjoy. For his part, he never thought that would include hazard pay and de-escalation training, two possible solutions managers used to help keep employees safe.

"Things escalate," McCloud said. "We only have so much escalation training as baristas."

Coava's exit comes just months after the departure of an Amazon Hub Locker that occupied the space next door. Both opened in 2017 along with Karam Restaurant and Bar. Karam is now the last remaining business tenant in the building.

"Our mindset is not on leaving," said owner Karam Karam. "We signed a very long lease for a reason because we're in it to win it."

Karam said he’s grateful for continued business and support, especially while dealing with his own share of crime. That includes several broken windows and break-ins, but nothing in the last month. For Karam, that’s a win.

"Every day coming to work it's always a surprise for me," Karam said. "Roaming around the building, seeing if there's any broken glass."

The challenges with crime are impacting businesses across the city, as noted in a survey by Bricks need Mortar, an advocacy group for small businesses.

Out of 118 small businesses owners surveyed, 79% of them said their businesses had been broken into or vandalized in 2022. That’s up from 63% in the 2021 survey. Many businesses said they’d been hit more than once.

"It's just been such a shock," said Bricks need Mortar founder and CEO Sarah Shaoul. "There's a lot of blame pointed at other entities, whether it's the city versus the county or the police versus the DA. Come on guys, we got to cut this out, we need to get together and we need to just work to solve these problems."

Shaoul admitted that what's happening in Portland is not much different from what many other cities are experiencing, except Portland's descent may have started from a more idyllic place.

"I believe that Portland just had much farther to fall," Shaoul said.

In March, Bricks need Mortar started a monthly meet-up group. It meets every third Thursday to help re-connect business owners. Those interested in attending a Shop Talk session can RSVP here.

Before You Leave, Check This Out