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Anti-capitalist cafe famous for letting customers pay what they like goes bust

The Anarchist Cafe, an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial cafe in downtown Toronto, will close its doors for good at the end of May.

In a statement posted to the cafe’s website, owner Gabriel Sims-Fewer wrote that a lack of personal generational wealth and seed capital from “ethnically bankrupt” sources left the cafe unable to survive the slow winter season or achieve sustainable long-term growth.

Nevertheless, Mr Sims-Fewer wrote that running The Anarchist has been an “amazing experience.”

“The Anarchist has been a huge success in every way I hoped, and has given me so much inspiration and education that I plan to put to use in future projects,” Mr Sims-Fewer wrote. “Keep an eye on the Instagram page to see what I end up doing next!”

The Anarchist opened in March of last year with a goal of making third-wave, specialty coffee drinks accessible to working-class and poor people. The cafe offered pay-what-you-can drip coffee alongside a range of lattes, teas and pastries. It also carried radical books, prints, and merchandise. People were not required to make a purchase at the cafe to use its restroom facilities or rest in the space.

The operation of the cafe for its 14-month existence was made possible in large part by Pop Coffee Works, which allowed Mr Sims-Fewer to take over and run its pre-existing cafe for free for six months in 2022 and discounted its rent in the months that followed.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to Pop Coffee Works, my coffee supplier and landlords, for their generosity and patience; they could easily have sold this space, or rented for more than twice what they’ve charged me, so this place wouldn’t have existed without them,” Mr Sims-Fewer wrote on the website. “They roast the best coffee in the city, so please continue to support them if you buy coffee beans.”

The Anarchist Cafe garnered a number of positive reviews for the quality of its coffee and atmosphere, and the announcement of its closure was mourned by a number of its fans on Instagram.

“This is such a great space,” one commenter, Anita Agrawal, wrote. “I’m very sorry to see this go. Loved picking up zines from here.”

Mr Sims-Fewer, who worked for years in the coffee business in British Columbia before opening The Anarchist Cafe, ended his message on the cafe’s closure with a reminder of its core operating principles.

“F*** the rich,” he wrote. “F*** the police. F*** the state. F*** the colonial death camp we call ‘Canada.’”