Coffee at the Point is one of eight Five Points businesses that have been sued by Burkett, a turn of events that has been hard both professionally and personally for Cobbins, who says that he “idolized” the developer behind the Flyfisher Group.
A few years ago, the Flyfisher Group began buying up properties in the historic Black neighborhood, and Burkett launched a food and beverage company called Pure Hospitality that Cobbins was hired to lead; the moves were touted as positive developments for the area. Pure Hospitality opened restaurants that included brunch spot Mimosas and the now closed Moods. Beats. Potions., and also invested in other enterprises, including Coffee on the Point.
But soon, Burkett’s relationships with many of the businesspeople with whom he was involved deteriorated. And some, including Cobbins, have been speaking out publicly regarding the negative impact Burkett has had on Five Points.
His professional relationship with Burkett began to disintegrate as he realized that their “values didn’t align,” Cobbins recalls. “We had a couple of conversations about dissolving the partnership,” he adds, saying that he was under the impression that he and Burkett had a mutual understanding about ending their business relationship.
But on March 2, just days after Cobbins ran into Burkett and recalls “giving him a hug,” Burkett sued Cobbins in Denver District Court, alleging that he’d reneged on a contract.
And last week, Cobbins’s attorney received notification that Burkett wants to hire an independent business consultant to do an evaluation of Coffee at the Point. “We don’t need to make attorneys richer; just tell me what you want,” Cobbins says he told Burkett. He’s received no response.
Westword reached out to Burkett on August 1 but has not received a response, either.
In addition to the lawsuit, Cobbins has been dealing with ongoing staffing issues that contributed to his decision to temporarily close the business. “Our standards have just fallen, and that is my fault,” he explains. “One of the biggest things that I did not do at the right time is instill appropriate leadership in the shop.” Recently, the shop was opening late and closing early, and cleanliness and quality had fallen.
Rising costs for “everything we touch” has also been challenging, he notes: “It was the perfect storm. … It’s just a beast.”
And so, as of July 31, Coffee at the Point is on pause. Cobbins hopes to reopen on September 13, and all ten staffers have been laid off in the meantime. “I expect some of them will return,” Cobbins says. Some employees seemed to know the news was coming, while others were more surprised, but “I would argue they’re all worried,” he adds. To help ease the stress, he’s put together resources to help the staff get help with food and job leads.
While the shop is closed, Cobbins hopes to make some improvements, including doing much-needed maintenance on some equipment. “I’d also love to be able to reimagine our living room spaces in particular,” he says.
But first, the lawsuit with Burkett must be resolved. “It’s just a matter of him telling me what he wants. I’ll most likely say ‘Sure’,” Cobbins says.
Running a small business for over a decade and “being on call 24/7, 365,” has taken its toll on Cobbins, especially over the past two and a half years. “The coffee shop has had a dramatic impact on my relationships,” he admits. Still, he’s keeping his perspective, since “I have too much to be thankful for,” he says.
Cobbins announced the temporary closure in an email blast sent out to subscribers on July 31:
It is with many mixed emotions and feelings that we take immediate action toward a better coffee shop. Effective immediately, Coffee at The Point will temporarily close for a makeover, do-over, and remodel.
I expect to reopen on September 13.
This November 13, 2022, Coffee at The Point will celebrate 13 years of serving our community. During this time, the shop has only closed for Christmas and an occasional Thanksgiving. I have been on-call 24/7, 365, throughout this duration. (If you’re wondering, something is inspiring about the 13th with me, myself & 2 of my brothers being born on the 13th, and all 3 of my baby girls have 13 in their birthdays.)
We have had the opportunity to celebrate our community by earning many awards over the years, including Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year (2018), Denver’s A-List Winner & Runner-up (2018, 2017, 2014, 2013, 2012), Top 5 America’s Best Coffeehouse (Coffee Fest 2015), and more.
In the last year, there have been a compounding amount of events that have been taxing. The most profound has been watching the decimation of my neighborhood with one person single-handling working to exit businesses, including this beloved friend that I idolized suing Coffee at The Point; and him sending legal papers to 7 other businesses and individuals in the Five Points neighborhood. There’s been enough written about this ongoing issue.
Inflation and the rising cost of labor continue to hamper the business. Last week, I received notice that one of our vendors is increasing their rates by 15%, in addition to an increase they did six months ago. Please note that I understand this increase as it is necessary.
Since opening, I recognize that I have been the shop’s worst critic. There’s always something that we can do better.
I haven’t been impressed with our level of service in the last several months. Our guarantee since November 13, 2010, is to provide Platinum Customer Service, exceeding customers’ expectations. Our level of service has had a dramatic fall, which is my fault.
Our work quality and cleanliness have fallen below “Ryan” standards. This is also my fault and requires me to take immediate action.
We have had more food walk out the door by our staff, which adds to the challenges of doing business. And I get it; the overindulgence of an unmonitored system leads to increased food consumption. Outside of a 100% off staff meal benefit while working, this is due to my lack of oversight.
We have experienced additional staff no-shows that my peers are also feeling. We have had weekly occurrences of opening late due to staff tardiness and staff closing early.
This critical decision brings pain to my heart and a sense of rejuvenation. We will take an immediate pause to work on enhancing our systems, updating our menu to meet customers’ needs, and implementing other systems designed to support our staff.
I recognize that some will support my decision while others work overtime to criticize me. I’m human like you, and I feel the words that are said (and written). And I leave my email for you to send your critique to me directly ([email protected]).
We will work to ensure our staff is made whole and find opportunities. We will find ways to repay our vendors and debt. This will prove challenging as we will be without generating revenue for some time.
Thank you for your understanding, patience, and love over the last 13 years. Thank you to our staff, vendors, and friends. Thank you to my family that feels the effects of dad working overtime, all day, every day.
~Ryan D. Cobbins