[Note: The headline for this story has been updated. The original headline stated that the cafe “drew ire” and “more protests,” though motivation for the actions was not made explicit.]
Over the years, Austin has done a lot to parody itself, but it might have set a new bar with the events that have unfolded at an East Austin property that has served as a flashpoint for anger over gentrification of the area.
The property, at 1401 East Cesar Chavez Street, is in a central, rapidly transforming neighborhood close to downtown. The site first became a point of controversy in February of 2015, when property owners destroyed what had been the Jumpolin piñata store, along with the store’s inventory, overnight.
The store’s owners claimed they had no prior knowledge that the building would be destroyed (which the landowners disputed), and neighborhood activists and others came to their defense with protests, appeals to the district’s city council representative, and publicity decrying the action as a direct result of gentrification. Confusion over whether or not the property owners had acquired proper demolition permits and the discovery that a SXSW party had been booked for the location did nothing to undermine that assertion.
In October 2015, The Blue Cat Café—a coffee shop where patrons can interact with cats and have the opportunity to adopt them—opened at 95 Navasota Street, adjacent to the former spot of the piñata store, which is now being used as its parking lot. Its opening weekend saw large protests, and, while the issue died down in the public eye, it has not gone away.
On Friday, according to an Austin American-Statesman story, the cafe owner reported that she discovered anti-gentrification graffiti and that the doors to the business had been glued shut, trapping cats inside the building.
The owner, who asked the paper not to identify her by name, said that protests, cyberbullying, and intimidation against her and the cafe had been ongoing. She told the Statesman that she had offered up some ways to work with the surrounding community and hoped that could still happen.
According to the cafe’s Facebook page, it has been raising funds for replacing locks and repairing other damages through a GoFundMe campaign, and volunteers have been helping eradicate the graffiti.
So far, it seems no one has come forward publicly to support or explain the action against the cafe, beyond what seems clear from the nature of past protests.