The vibe at South Craig Street's Kiva Han has always been laid-back: It still has Halloween decorations up. But the weekend before the coffeehouse's Feb. 19 closing, the mood was downright subdued.
"The regulars are pretty devastated," says Tyler Bryan, who's worked as a barista for nearly five years. "People are asking, ‘Where else can I go?'"
There's a Starbucks across the street, of course. But as with any true coffeehouse, the coffee wasn't the whole point. The riot of handbills taped to the walls told you everything you needed to know about Pittsburgh: who's tutoring in Arabic; where to practice sahaja meditation; show dates for everything from The Music Man to the "Mutilation Rites" show at Roboto. Kiva Han was a quiet place to study, and a staging area for progressive politics: It hosted Amnesty International letter-writing sessions, and protesters fortifying themselves before a march.
Now it's being replaced by a Bagel Factory, a local chain better positioned to pay Craig Street's rising rents. It could be worse. When the Oakland Beehive, a smoky slacker haven, disappeared from Forbes Avenue a decade ago, it was ultimately replaced by a cell-phone store.
Bryan, whose lip piercing masks a major in accounting ("When I first met my adviser, he thought I was lost"), says he hasn't found a new job. Based on his studies, would he recommend starting an Oakland coffeehouse?
He pauses. "The fixed costs make it impossible," he says. "The rents are so high."