Kaladi Brothers Coffee said Friday that it will soon close its downtown location at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts after 18 years, citing issues with safety. The move comes two months after the Alaska coffee chain opened another shop nearby in the ConocoPhillips tower.
Kaladi Brothers loved the cafe at 621 W. Sixth Ave. and was grateful to customers and employees, the company said in a Facebook post.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the closure of our Downtown cafe at West 6th Avenue on Friday, December 1st,” the post said. “Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our staff and customers, and while we have put forth our greatest efforts in mitigating the safety issues that affect them, we no longer feel that we can responsibly operate within this space.”
The performing arts center’s address has been the subject of numerous police calls, according to Anchorage police.
Kaladi co-owner Tim Gravel said the closure of one of the company’s 14 stores comes as the lease with the Center for the Performing Arts was ending.
He said the shop has faced numerous problems from disruptive people who have done everything from throwing objects inside the store to relieving themselves outside of it.
He said the safety problems have worsened over the last four years. The store hired a security guard in recent months, and removed much of its seating this year to discourage loitering. He said he wasn’t sure how much of the problem was connected with homelessness. The city has long grappled with providing both sufficient shelter and support for homeless residents, especially in the wake of the pandemic. The number of unsheltered residents has surged.
“I can’t say it’s all shelterless people, I don’t know, except it’s definitely people coming in who are under the influence of something,” Gravel said.
“We’re all trying to navigate what’s going on downtown and I hire people who shouldn’t have to deal with some of this stuff,” he said. “I don’t want someone to get hurt.”
Escorting people outside can be a difficult experience, he said. “You want to be empathetic and compassionate, but at the same time you want to keep people safe,” he said.
“When you’re faced with renewing a lease for three to five years and faced with these challenges, it’s like, do you really want to keep doing this?” he said. “It’s a numbers game, and eventually something will happen, and we don’t want something to happen. It’s just not worth it, and we’re not like other businesses downtown. We don’t have a host out front, we don’t lock our doors. We’re an open cafe.”
There were 173 calls to the address, which is part of the performing arts center, so far this year, according to records provided by the Anchorage Police Department. The calls could have involved subjects inside facilities, or on the grounds outside, said Sunny Guerin, a spokesperson with the department.
Many of the calls were for trespassing, but others involved intoxication and welfare checks. The trespassing calls could have involved requests for police to escort for unwanted guests from the premises, Guerin said.
Codie Costello, president of the performing arts center, said the center is sad to see Kaladi Brothers go.
“They are like family to us,” she said. “We have been connected to one another for 18 years. It’s a small community and we care about their staff like we do ours.”
She said the center just learned about the change two days ago.
“I don’t have a solution yet in terms of how we’ll activate that space moving forward,” she said. “We along with many others in the community are committed to finding ways to increase the vibrancy and activity in downtown to build on those positive behaviors we want to see.”
The new Kaladi Brothers opened in September, in the newly remodeled atrium of the ConocoPhillips tower, at 700 G St.
That opening was unrelated to the plans to close the Kaladi Brothers in the performing arts center, which had a decent summer for sales, Gravel said.
He said the new shop is open to the public.
“They have a wonderful place for people to meet, do business and have meetings,” he said.