I learned recently from an article in the Birmingham Mail that one of the first specialty coffee shops in Birmingham, 6/8 Kafe on Temple Row, is to close down after the building it inhabits is to be transformed into a shower complex for workers who cycle in to offices nearby.
The multi-award winning 6/8 Kafe which opened in 2011 is considered a pioneer in bringing specialty coffee to Birmingham. While you can now wander around Birmingham and have a good choice of coffee shops from the independents such as Quarter Horse, 200 Degrees, Yorks and every coffee chain you can think of (including the Canadian chain Second Cup), this was not always the case. More than just a coffee shop, this place was also important for local artists and musicians, with frequent events being held at the cafe. This isn’t the end for 6/8 Kafe as it does have another outlet in Millenium Point, but it marks the end of an era for many people who visit this cafe, and have made memories here.
More than this it marks a change in urban development patterns. In many places coffee shops are often seen as symbols of urban development or gentrification. In this case there’s a new wave of development that is even pushing out the coffee shop. For many independent coffee shops, the cost of rent in retail centres can be too high to be viable. Will this mean in the future that city centres become the domain of coffee shop chains that can stand the high rent prices, and can claim the central real estate locations, with independents having a greater presence as you move out of city centres and into the suburbs? In any case, this an interesting example of how urban development doesn’t always lead to a growth of coffee shops, but can also lead to their demise.