I am writing to inform you that after 30 years, The Natural Cafe on State Street is closing its doors.
Although we have been dealing with the same issues since the day we opened, things have taken an extreme turn for the worst the last few years.
Homelessness, whether it is guest and staff interaction or aggressive panhandling, has always been challenging, but it has now turned into straight-up criminality. Consuming alcohol and drugs in public, using planters for toilets, camping in empty store fronts or locking themselves in our bathrooms and showering, sleeping and using drugs is an everyday occurrence.
The rat/vermin problem, which starts with the city and their lack of any program to address this has, in the last few years, become intolerable. Look under any parklet and you will find rats nests. Food is just falling on them from above.
Did I mention the bicycles and skateboarders speeding down the closed street, running stop signs and putting themselves and all pedestrians at constant risk?
All of these issues have become exacerbated by COVID and the “parklets.” Not sure why you call them parklets. For the most part, they’re cheap-looking, trashy 2 x 4 wood structures that greatly diminish what was once one of the great main streets in the country.
To be clear, the parklets were a great idea when we lost our dining room, but most of us put up basic patio platforms as no one expected this to go on for multiple years, much less permanently. We took our parklet down last month as it no longer looked good. The city has an outdoor dining program that is more than adequate. We have our dining rooms back. We need State Street back.
Government’s job is to level the playing field. This parklet program favors the few at the expense of the many.
We need to remove the parklets, and clean up State Street and police it. Why is it so hard for the city to do these simple things? Seems like Job #1 to me.
Kelly Brown is the founder and CEO of Natural Cafe, Inc.