Tough times at Tougo Coffee

We’re still getting to the bottom of what is going on but Tougo Coffee owner Brian Wells has sent out this plea for help to keep the 18th Ave shop open for business:

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Tougo has provided an updated message that adds additional information. We’re replacing the old message with the updated text:

Good day facebook friends, family, and community supporters.

As you all maybe aware, Mom and Pop coffee houses do not make much money, and in fact more often than not make no money at all. Tougo Coffee Co. is one of them. It’s more about trying to provide a place to call home outside of the home. A coffee house that welcomes all and acts as a place for community gatherings. To encourage, support, inspire, and be inspired.

There is some confusion with the city regarding taxes for our business and we are working with them to sort it all out. They are very wonderful to work with and we are doing everything we can to get our beloved shop reopened as soon as possible.

We are asking each of our friends in this difficult time to dig deep and make a donation of any amount or the equivalent to your weekly visits coffee consumption or more if you are able too.

Tougo Coffee Co appreciate all the kind words from our community and it’s really heartfelt. This is very, very humbling to me on a number of levels as the past year has been one of trying for sure. Some of you know exactly what I mean :-) but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I am confident that we can all enjoy our beloved Tougo Coffee Co. in the next couple of days with all the kind words, support and encouragement.

Thank you.

[email protected]

If you want to make a donation we have a paypal account that we will make the link available later today.

We Will provide French Press Coffee for the get together.
10:30 am at 1406 18th Ave… Music provided by the Aaron English project. We hope to see you in the morning.

The e-mail comes after this message was sent out Tuesday via the Tougo Twitter account:
Tougo Coffee Co has been closed temporarily due to Confusion with the City. We are going to work with the City to…

We are unable to view the Facebook message the Tweet links to. The signs in the pictures on this post were found on Tougo’s window and door Wednesday afternoon.

Wells has operated Tougo on 18th Ave since spring 2007. He also opened a second South Lake Union location at 8th and Westlake at the tail end of 2008. In September 2010, the Seattle Times reported that Wells had put the Westlake location up for sale for $40,000. On a recent CDNews visit, we found Wells still behind the bar at the second Tougo.

Wells has been an important part of the Central District — and Central District News — community, even posting to the site on occasion. He also helped start Cortona Cafe but is no longer an owner as the shop goes non-profit, according to Will Little.

We’re asking Wells for clarification of the current situation and will also start checking with the city to find out what we can.

11 thoughts on “Tough times at Tougo Coffee

  1. Business taxes are due at the end of January, in order to include December. This is obviously quite a backlog of business taxes. I am very disappointed – I was just in there with my son last week. Great coffee, great people working there. I hope it gets sorted out.

    But I AM relieved to know it wasn’t related to the health department/dogs issue from a couple months ago!

  2. a business asking for donations because they don’t know how to run a business and pay taxes. this is a new low for Seattle businesses. don’t donate, close the shop – idiots shouldnt be allowed to run a business. hey, I am having a hard time paying my cable bill. I will accepting donations this morning and the corner of that’s my problem and get a brain.

  3. I hear what your are saying and see that side to the argument, but as business owner myself, there are a lot of things we have to deal with that maybe you’re not aware of. In this case, maybe they have had a downturn in sales (like everyone) but are still stuck with high “fixed costs” like non-negotiable rent (on a lease that probably has some time left on it), the rising costs of everything (from wages, to taxes, to utilities, to wholesale food/beverage costs) and a strong desire NOT to fail (bankruptcy consequences are a thing that looms large for nearly every neighborhood business owner these days). Maybe they have ALREADY cut back as much as they can to “make it” through the downturn and maybe a priority for them was to try and stay afloat through 2010 (which for me was worse then 2009) hoping for a better 2011. If we are smart owners, we have all trimmed the fat to make it – we are all working longer hours and continue to cut hours for every employee we still have (a hard to choice to make since you hope service won’t suffer). We take on the onus of doing what we can to keep our communities vibrant and offer a service (which in this case is a good one..) to a neighborhood that needs and wants it. I think the bigger message here is keep your money local! Essentially, Tougo is asking its customers to come back or return more frequently so they can continue offering the goods and services that you wanted in the first place.

    I am sympathetic to the owners of Tougo. Lucky for you, Jake, you still have cable – I bet they had to get rid of any such “frivolity” long ago.

  4. “Essentially, Tougo is asking its customers to come back or return more frequently so they can continue offering the goods and services that you wanted in the first place.”

    I’m also a CD business owner and no Kedra, essentially they’re asking for DONATIONS! As far as it being a “good service”… it’s coffee and this is SEATTLE! Figure it out like a grown up or shut it down Tougo!

    Jake isn’t lucky… he is working it out.

    Kedra, when you get a chance please let us know how much you’ve donated.

  5. Tougo is about more than coffee. Sure, you can get a good latte just a few blocks over in one direction or another. Tougo is about community. It’s one of only two coffee shops in the CD/Cap Hill area I know of that welcomes children and provides toys for them, free of charge. As a parent of a small child, I can say it has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

    Jake, if I came to your house and watched cable with you once or twice a week (which is how often I go to Tougo), and you fell on hard times, I would help pay your cable bill because I use it. If you don’t ever go to Tougo, then I certainly wouldn’t expect you to help them out.

  6. How about if you don’t want to donate, well then don’t donate, and turn your attention somewhere else?

    Does it make you feel good to call them idiots and tell them to grow up and saying they represent a new low?

    Tearing people down to build yourself up is something most people grow out of at a young age.

  7. It’s really a shame that Tougo has come to this. Brian’s a fantastic guy and is a great example of the sort of community fixtures/leaders the CD needs in order to flourish as a neighborhood.

    If Tougo is going to ask for donations, though, it would also be appropriate to tell its stakeholders how it got into this position. It’s not as though the 18th Ave location suffered for lack of business.

  8. And once they outgrow that, they start telling other people how to behave to build themselves up. Case in point.

    Some people just like the idea of a business acting like a business and not a charity.

  9. i think the reason the community reaction to this wasn’t “well, way to be a screwup” is:

    1) local businesses who have given every appearance of “doing it right” have been shutting down left and right due to the economy and/or struggling

    2) i’ve done contract work, an ebay store, organized music events etc. so i have some perspective on what it’s like to be on the other end

    3) we don’t view brian as a stranger or a random person.

    i suppose i can only speak for myself, but he came to our house for one of our backyard BBQs. it’s not like that makes him my best friend, but when the business owner in question has a face and a name and a family, when you interact with them regularly and they convincingly seem like a compassionate, intelligent person who’s giving back to the community (for example, helping with cortona which is now a nonprofit trying to give central district teenagers jobs and have free technology classes for them), etc… it’s harder to be like “well, sucks to be you, but we can get coffee anywhere.”

    it’s not specific to brian. if you are any random CD business owner who’s a good human being, chances are i would want to help if i could. especially if i come into your business regularly and talk to you. i can make coffee at home and buy/make alcoholic drinks and cook myself food at home. i’m an unemployed student on a very small budget. but i go to public places to do those things anyway. part of the reason is because i like the social interaction and i like supporting independent small businesses. i don’t view it just as me paying someone to “serve” me. i view it as a place where i hang out and meet my neighbors or at least see them and recognize them.

    i understand the attitude of “i’d never ask anyone for help”, i really do. i will often go to extreme lengths to avoid asking anyone for money or help, especially in a situation where i made mistakes and got myself into a bad situation. but the older i get, the more i realize that there were many times in my life when i suffered through something because i viewed it as my problem and i didn’t want to put anyone else out, but in the end neither they nor i was better off. it isn’t always less selfish to be independent if you’re focused more on protecting your pride than on the impact your decision has on other people. what parent would have a family to support and not want to do everything they could?

    being honest with people when you make mistakes can give others courage to do the same. yes, it’s dumb to screw up your taxes, but i’ve done it. in my case, the government owed me way more money and i totally needed the money… i would never have done that on purpose.

  10. I agree with raincitykitty – Tougo really is a fantastic COMMUNITY location. They’ve provided a wonderful “home” to our knitting group – very welcoming both to our numbers and the fact that one of our members is in a wheel chair. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for them to seek out donations from the community that they’ve helped nurture.

  11. Tougo coffee is getting what they put into it, Brian openned three shops in a short time and didn’t pay attention to paying his bills. Said to see it happen, but your going too see it happen again,