It looks like Vox Pop’s voice has been silenced: yesterday afternoon, the Ditmas Park coffee shop was seized by the tax man for non-payment of back taxes. Ditmas Park Blog received reports of patrons being asked to leave by the cops, who then slapped the red badge of shame on the shop’s Bob Marley-festooned riot gate.
Vox Pop’s CEO and general manager, Debi Ryan, e-mailed the website, asking patrons to show their support at a rally later that evening. “Vox Pop is seriously in trouble,” Ryan’s letter began.
She went on to explain that, “[a]s of this afternoon, Vox Pop was closed by NYS Department of Taxation and Finance for accrued back taxes, part of our legacy debt. News 12 is coming to do a story on it TONIGHT at 6:30. We need to have as many community members/shareholders on hand as possible to demonstrate how important this space is to the community…We will be in touch shortly with further details, but the most pressing need right now is a community show of support to help us get through this crises.”
This isn’t the first time that Vox Pop has faced an uncertain future: earlier this year, the five-year-old cafe, which was known as much for its political ideology as its coffee, was in serious financial straits after its founder, Sander Hicks, opened a second, under-capitalized location in the Bowery Poetry Club. Hicks eventually resigned and Ryan took over, and came up with a strategy to turn the cafe into a for-profit collective. Over the course of 10 days in the spring, she sold stock to customers for $50 a share. Some 200 people invested, and raised $64,000 to keep the cafe in business and pay off its $30,000 fine to the Health Department, which at one point had closed the cafe for non-payment.
Phone calls to both the cafe and its publishing house went unanswered; stay tuned for further developments.