Idlewild Coffee Co., 300 E. Fifth St. at Second Avenue, closed this past Friday after service — less than two months from opening day.
It was awful timing for the cafe. We first spotted signage for the shop in late February. The COVID-19 PAUSE arrived about one month later, forcing them to hold off on a grand opening.
Idlewild finally debuted on June 15 ... nearly two weeks after this block between First Avenue and Second Avenue went on lockdown on May 30 as the 9th Precinct, located mid-block, placed barricades and an array of officers at both ends of the street to protect the station house from the threat of protesters.
A note on the door for patrons points to the ongoing presence of the barricades as the main reason behind the coffee shop's quick closure...
The letter reads in part:
These are crazy times and there have been too many things completely out of our control that have affected business. The police barriers at the ends of the block which have greatly restricted foot traffic has probably been the biggest obstacle for the entirety of our opening, so hopefully for the sake of our more established neighboring businesses, the barriers will be completely removed at some point soon so that some sort of normalcy can return to the wonderful block.
Thank you so much for the warm welcome and all the positive feedback you've given us.
Last Thursday, a member of the Save Our Storefronts (SOS) coalition spoke with Idlewild owner John Harper, who said that he ran out of cash between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 9th Precinct's lockdown. He said 10 to 15 years of his savings went down the drain.
As far as we know, Idlewild didn't send out an opening announcement — other than an Instagram post. And we didn't know the shop had opened. Our previous attempts to walk on the block were rebuffed by officers on duty who said that only residents could access this stretch.
Here's a look at the barricades the other day...
The barricades are less restrictive than they were in June and early July... and pedestrians are now OK'd to access Fifth Street ...
The NYPD has barricaded Precincts citywide, as Streetsblog ... Gothamist ... and West Side Rag have previously reported.
In an op-ed published in The Village Sun on July 15, Stuart Zamsky, who owns White Trash a few doors away from Idlewild, addressed the ongoing presence of the barricades.
[M]erchants and residents on these blocks are having a hard enough time trying to survive. We should not be interrogated in order to gain entry to our homes and places of business. If police have ongoing concerns about the safety of their station houses, couldn’t they limit the enclosures to the precinct buildings themselves?
In interviews (with CBS 2 for instance), the NYPD has repeatedly said that the streets around the station houses will reopen when there is no longer a threat. As the closure of Idlewild Coffee Co. shows, the barricades remain a threat to local businesses.