Center Camp/coffee debate

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.
Post Reply
Guest

Post by Guest » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:09 pm

we get 2 trucks a day everyday of the event.. they travel from gate to center camp....
Bob wrote:since all cafe trailers and such are in place by the time the event starts, it's only the potable water truck that makes regular trips to the cafe.

.

User avatar
III
Posts: 1507
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:14 pm

Post by III » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:10 pm

>that's their normal modus operandi : find a place where's there's already a proven market for coffee, set up shop and do their best to drive the original cafe in the area out of business

this is *why* people call the center cafe starbucks: because it uses its position at the middle of everything, along with the convenience of not requiring social interaction, to trump those who would provide the same service as part of their theme camps.

so yeah, it's all that, and walmart too.
[url]http://3playa.cultureshark.net/[/url]

User avatar
III
Posts: 1507
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:14 pm

Post by III » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:15 pm

oh, and for t.p:

>Does that about sum it up?

i guess. for me the biggest part of it is that selling nonvital stuff for green money right in the center of everything while disallowing commercial vending strikes me as a very big "DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO", and smacks of hypocricy.
[url]http://3playa.cultureshark.net/[/url]

precipitate
Posts: 746
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere near an ocean and a desert and a mountain

Post by precipitate » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:17 pm

> Stop calling the cafe a fucking STARBUCK'S!

Whoops. We seem to have found a button.

No, all commercial ventures are not alike. Yes, I've been to Starbucks.
Got a venti decaf nonfat latte sitting on my desk now (because there are
no independent coffee shops in downtown LA, thanks to Starbucks).

However, in the scheme of the playa, interacting at the cafe feels a lot like
Starbucks to me. And what trey said. YMMV.

User avatar
Ivy
Posts: 979
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2003 8:20 pm
Location: Long Beach, CA
Contact:

Post by Ivy » Tue Dec 02, 2003 2:58 pm

Having worked for both Starbucks and the center camp cafe, I can see both similarities and differences.

I can see why it would offend Kelly to keep refering to the cafe as Starbucks. I can see why precipitate refers to it as such becuase of the feel she gets from it.

In my opinion, neither is a cafe. Hell, neither one sells sandwiches. :)

User avatar
alice
Posts: 397
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2003 7:40 pm
Location: wonderland
Contact:

Post by alice » Tue Dec 02, 2003 3:06 pm

on my last visit to starbucks(day before thanksgiving, walnut creek) i noticed that they were indeed selling sandwiches.


and everything else under the sun.
bitch all you want - it won't change nothin.

User avatar
Rob the Wop
Posts: 1814
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2003 4:06 pm
Location: Furbackistan, OR
Contact:

Post by Rob the Wop » Tue Dec 02, 2003 4:20 pm

III wrote: so yeah, it's all that, and walmart too.
Amen.

Oh, but I'll stop bitching when they start selling beer and Nachos Bellgrandes.
[b]The other, other white meat.[/b]

User avatar
MrChevere
Posts: 32
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2003 12:31 pm

Center Cafe

Post by MrChevere » Tue Dec 02, 2003 4:34 pm

I dont get the Center Cafe thing. I don't get the attraction of cafes in general. I don't drink a lot of coffee and if I wanted coffee at BM I would brew my own. I do like an occasional late but never got one at BM. Is it because Cafes let under 21 people hang out and all you youngsters just got used to hanging out in cafes? There are four cafes in my town of 10,000 people.

The Center Cafe was kinda nice to hang out in. Just kinda nice. I guess something has to be in the center of camp. If they have to sell something why not shave ice or something else cold and refeshing?
It was like this when I got here, honest.

User avatar
Bob
Posts: 6748
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 10:00 am
Burning Since: 1986
Camp Name: Royaneh
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Post by Bob » Wed Dec 03, 2003 3:28 am

MrChevere wrote:....I guess something has to be in the center of camp....
That might be the most on-target reason why it's still there as a design feature of Center Camp. The big shrug. The question of what-the-heck-else. I'm not sure whether it's momentum that keeps the cafe going, or inertia that keeps it there.

One reason it evolved the way it did was as an alternative to a main stage. In the years stages were maintained in Center Camp (and elsewhere), the criticisms were that they fostered a "spectator" look and feel, that a lot of bottles and garbage were tossed around, that they were too noisy, that they more directly competed with theme camps that also had stages, that booking it was problematic esp. wrt name bands, and all sorts of inside baseball.

The cafe was purposed (or repurposed) in part to supplant all that as a quieter alternative. Acoustic music, lectures, bla bla bla. It was also supposed to serve as a place to actually hold meetings, but it's been years since it was quiet enough for that.

My own ideological objection would be that it's essentially a funded theme camp, without the more obvious sense of purpose of Playa Info, Media Mecca, etc. That it serves to help orient the disoriented is a plus, but the city-style cafe-society thing has mostly gone by the wayside. It's not Starbucks -- more like a Haight Street version of Chuck E. Cheese.

It's a crashpad. Nobody I know goes there. It's fun to build, but so are real theme camps. It was fun to help design, but so are real theme camps. Some great people work on keeping it going, and maybe every carney has to have a circus tent, but maybe it's all at the expense of those great people's own projects, sanity, etc. Might be nice art there, but you trip over rows of bicycles and other flotsam to get to it.

Re: culture-jamming -- Chicken John already did the Cafe years ago. The only thing left would be to encircle it with spare-changers, which for me would be more of a comment on how much it resembles the Haight of the late Sixties, than on the coffee sales thing.

Just my opinion. I like the idea of civic structures in Black Rock City, but wish the same sort of effort had been directed toward Playa Info, etc. rather than a sit-and-sip.

And the truth is, with the other installations around Center Camp, that the effort has to come from the ground up, with a core group prepared to make something happen. Sometimes it does, and sometimes they do fine with the minimal shade 'n stuff.

User avatar
Last Real Burner
Posts: 941
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2003 9:34 am
Location: Heaven
Contact:

I'm in. You Can Count on me. Take my poke Gov...

Post by Last Real Burner » Thu Dec 04, 2003 9:42 pm

No more commercial enterprises at Burning Man! Image

Great idea... The info/media/emt Center will replace the cafe!Image

No more of that do as I say, not as I do syndrome!Image

We'll make our own coffee every morning... wait... Image

Make our own fucking coffee every morning!!!Image

You guys are out of your fucking minds! Image Let's just leave coffee thing the fuck alone, and move on to more pressing matters like, who the fuck has badger's gift.

irreversabally,
mr smith
"Do you know what happened to the boy who got everything he wished for? - He lived happily ever after".

User avatar
mr. wrong
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2003 9:19 am
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact:

Post by mr. wrong » Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:00 am

I've been following this thing for a while...
First and foremost: To those who doubt, it is indeed possible to be self-reliant in the desert for a week. Accepting, that is, the definition of self reliance as "bring all you need from a department store" rather than the traditional "supply what you need." I've hiked through the mojave for a week with what I needed on my back; all I added to that pack was water once every couple of days.

But very, very few people would want to do that sort of thing. It is deifitely an experience worth having, but it also uncomfortable. Self-reliance for me during that week meant self-deprivation. And ramen, ramen, ramen.

My point is that the much-ballyhooed self-reliance is a basically appolonian thing, if you catch my drift, not a bacchanalian one. It is all about deprivation. The things we all do at Burning Man in order to preserve the beautiful bacchanalian nature of the event -- starting with driving there rather than waking there under our own power, then adding electricity for the music and lights, then the coolers, even the occassional trip to Gerlach (never done it myself, but let's be honest, happens all the time) are losses of self-reliance and gains of commerce, because we had to rely on someone else to sell them, then on gas stations to fuel us on the way there. Hating the cafe and loving the insanely wonderful things that others do to make the event Burning Man (rather than Desert Survival Week) is drawing an arbitrary line. Which is not to say that everyone has to like the cafe; Each person should decide where their arbitrary line is; that's called "having your own taste." But trying to draw my line, or that of the evnt in general, is presumptuous.

Which makes Larry (LLC, cabal) presumptuous, sure. But we all seem to come back anyway.

On the other hand: If there really are others out there interested in setting up a "commerce-free" cafe, or several of them, I'm up for it. Email me and let's talk about it. In other words: If someone wants to do something other than sit and bitch, I'm game. I don't know about everyone else, but I certainly don't feel like I've had my initiative crushed under the iron heel of the cafe. Hell, I work there, and I'd still spend time making coffee for people.

Side note: As a cafe worker, I see the people who come into our evil Starbucks. Better yet: I work the graveyard shift, so I see the really weirded-out ones. And for all the flak the cafe gets, these people do not seem bitter about it's existence. Oh, and I used to be a coffee slut in the real world, too, and I'd have to disagree with Ivy: The cafe is not at all like a Starbucks; the cafe runs on a total lack of rationalization and a surplus of ingenuity. Actually working a shift there is more like an excercise in benevolent anarchy than anything else.

User avatar
Isotopia
Posts: 2848
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2003 11:26 am

Post by Isotopia » Sun Dec 14, 2003 6:06 pm

That avatar looks suspiciously like a Prozac pill.

User avatar
Bob
Posts: 6748
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 10:00 am
Burning Since: 1986
Camp Name: Royaneh
Location: San Francisco
Contact:

Post by Bob » Sun Dec 14, 2003 7:33 pm

mr. wrong wrote:I've been following this thing for a while...
First and foremost: To those who doubt, it is indeed possible to be self-reliant in the desert for a week....
All well and good...

To what extent do you consider the Cafe to be a theme camp, and yourself a member?
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

"Let us say I suggest you may be human." -- Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

User avatar
mr. wrong
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2003 9:19 am
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact:

good question

Post by mr. wrong » Mon Dec 15, 2003 2:37 pm

Re: Bob's question. Hmmm, like the subject heading says, it's a good question. It's not really a theme camp per se, because, as everyone here points out, it's a beast of a different stripe.
But I've busted my butt building it, stocking it and running it, and I like the people there, at least for the most part. It's definitely part of my identity on the playa; they're my homies, if you know what I mean. So while it's not a theme camp, it pretty much serves that role for me personally. It fits me, because I miss my days working at a real-world coffeeshop, and the cafe is, as a worker, like that... except you can bring beer.

And hey, to whoever said I look like groovin' prozac: YOUR avatar looks like Divine as a mexican wrestler, so let's not go casting stones.

User avatar
Zane5100
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 9:51 am
Location: closer than you think

Re: good question

Post by Zane5100 » Tue Dec 16, 2003 8:02 am

mr. wrong wrote:Re: Bob's question. Hmmm, like the subject heading says, it's a good question. It's not really a theme camp per se, because, as everyone here points out, it's a beast of a different stripe.
But I've busted my butt building it, stocking it and running it, and I like the people there, at least for the most part. It's definitely part of my identity on the playa; they're my homies, if you know what I mean. So while it's not a theme camp, it pretty much serves that role for me personally. It fits me, because I miss my days working at a real-world coffeeshop, and the cafe is, as a worker, like that... except you can bring beer.
Just because you like Center Camp and what you do there doesn't mean the rest of us have to like it, or even respect it.
mr. wrong wrote:...YOUR avatar looks like Divine as a mexican wrestler, so let's not go casting stones.
You say that like it's a bad thing...
middle-aged, wannabe-hipster, dilettante

User avatar
mr. wrong
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2003 9:19 am
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact:

of course not!

Post by mr. wrong » Tue Dec 16, 2003 9:10 am

Hey, of course you don't have to like the cafe. But there's a difference between not liking something and talking about ending its existence, or not liking it and finding it to be fundamentally wrong, a betrayal of the values you think to be running BM.
I personally hate hard-core techno, but what the fuck, I'm not gonna put maple syrup in anyone's generator. THEY obviously like it a hell of a lot, all night long, nice and loud.

And, of course, it's a beautiful thing to have divine the mexican wrestler as you avatar. Just as I wouldn't have chosen mine if it didn't represent an angry phramaceutical.

By the way... that offer about starting an alternative source of coffee was for reals. We could all just do it independently, but why not get organized? Takers? Hmm?

User avatar
Zane5100
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 9:51 am
Location: closer than you think

Re: of course not!

Post by Zane5100 » Tue Dec 16, 2003 9:40 am

mr. wrong wrote:By the way... that offer about starting an alternative source of coffee was for reals. We could all just do it independently, but why not get organized? Takers? Hmm?
Now that is something that is in the spirit of Burning Man, IMO.
middle-aged, wannabe-hipster, dilettante

User avatar
III
Posts: 1507
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:14 pm

Post by III » Tue Dec 16, 2003 10:11 am

of course, the two big differences between the cafe and any other random camp are:

(1) your ticket money doesn't pay for the supplies, equipment, and labor to build any random camp, and

(2) the camps are not allowed to engage in commerce on the playa to recoup their costs.
[url]http://3playa.cultureshark.net/[/url]

User avatar
Zane5100
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 9:51 am
Location: closer than you think

Post by Zane5100 » Tue Dec 16, 2003 11:05 am

My beef with Center Camp is:

1) They charge money for the coffee.

2) They supply disposable cups.

3) They provide trash service.


Eliminate 2) and 3) and I'll be a lot less bitchy about the whole situation. I can understand that they want the coffee sales, but supplying cups and trash removal is a complete fuck-up IMO.
middle-aged, wannabe-hipster, dilettante

User avatar
Chai Guy
Posts: 1818
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 1:37 am
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Post by Chai Guy » Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:33 pm

Trey & Zane, I feel exactly the same way.

By the way... that offer about starting an alternative source of coffee was for reals. We could all just do it independently, but why not get organized? Takers? Hmm?
Actually there is an organized effort, please PM me for details. More info will be posted on the eplaya as it becomes available. Thanks- Chai : )

User avatar
KellY
Posts: 321
Joined: Mon Sep 08, 2003 11:32 am

Here we go again

Post by KellY » Tue Dec 16, 2003 5:28 pm

Of the above complaints, I can only sympathize with the "cafe=no commerce hypocricy" point (though as I've said, I personally don't mind). Really guys, the coffee selling thing pays for itself; if the org does end up contributing money, it's for the art and deco, which does end up adding up to a not insubstantial figure, but then you're talking about the whole concept of the org funding art - which is another thing I know some folks have a problem with. Ironically I've seen posts in the past by people who think the cafe is a money maker say they'd rather pay higher ticket prices than have their ticket partially subsidized by the cafe.

Seriously if the cafe does end up contributing to the general fund after all expenses are addressed, would any of you out there who object to it now not mind so much?

I really don't get the cups/trash problem. The cafe provides cups and a place to dispose of them. Would it be better to serve coffee and NOT have trash cans for them? If it makes you feel better, the cups are made from recycled material.
"Of what use is a philosopher who doesn't hurt anybody's feelings?" -Diogenes

User avatar
Chai Guy
Posts: 1818
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 1:37 am
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Post by Chai Guy » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:08 pm

Really guys, the coffee selling thing pays for itself; if the org does end up contributing money, it's for the art and deco, which does end up adding up to a not insubstantial figure
Do you have access to any numbers? I've seen the costs of the cafe $105,000 (for Cafe and Ice Sales not including buildings and staff) but no information on what the Cafe took in and no information regarding the profitability of the cafe. I would like to know what information you are basing this on.

My understanding from reading the financial report is that the Ice Sales make money, that profit is then turned over to the various charitable causes such as: volunteer fire departments, senior citizens center, Gerlach junior high and high school, the water tower, Jeremy Williams scholarship fund, Gerlach Medical Center, and the Humane Society of Reno.

The Cafe supposedly operates at a loss (thus the cafe does not contribute to any charitable causes). It's difficult to determine the validity of the loss because those numbers are not available (if they are please post them here).

So here's the next question:
How do you operate a business at a loss when you have
1. Free Labor (in the form of volunteers)
2. Free Rent (paid for by the participants to the BLM in the form of ticket money).
3. 24 hour a day service.
4. No income tax
5. Charge $3.00 for a chai latte that costs you less than a $1.00 to produce?

Seriously if the cafe does end up contributing to the general fund after all expenses are addressed, would any of you out there who object to it now not mind so much?
I would still object. If you are going to have a "commerce free" event, then make it commerce free. The excuse for coffee sales as "it makes your ticket less expensive" holds about as much water as "I'm just selling these necklaces to cover the costs of my ticket"
I really don't get the cups/trash problem. The cafe provides cups and a place to dispose of them. Would it be better to serve coffee and NOT have trash cans for them? If it makes you feel better, the cups are made from recycled material.
When I gift out chai, I offer to take the cup from the person when they are done, if they give me the cup back it goes immediately into a trash bag in my cart. It's a human interaction, part of my gift is taking care of the trash my gift creates. The cafe on the other hand simply has these receptacles for use, just for cups? Well, I guess if I bought a coffee then I can put whatever I want into the trash can right? After all I helped pay for that trash can with my coffee, I'm entitled to it, right? On second thought, hey, I paid for this, when I 'm done with it, I can just leave it here on the table. Do you know how much these "Volunteers" make in tips during a shift? What does this do? Takes reliance away from the community and puts it on the Organization.

User avatar
Chai Guy
Posts: 1818
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 1:37 am
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Post by Chai Guy » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:31 pm

Here's something interesting-

http://www.bohemianmasquerade.com/greet ... istics.htm

75,000 drinks sold (see link above) (please note for this year, not 2002 but I'm guessing that it's not much different year to year)

$108,000 Cost of Goods for the Ice and Café sales (not including buildings and staff) http://afterburn.burningman.com/02/financial_chart.html

(please note this is the 2002 report)


I don't know what the average cost of a drink was, I'm pretty sure the Chai Latte's were going for $3.00, am I right? Ok, let's say the average cost of a drink in the cafe was $2.00 (does this seem right?)
at 75,000 drinks that's $150,000 bucks!

And they don't make money???

User avatar
Chai Guy
Posts: 1818
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 1:37 am
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Post by Chai Guy » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:45 pm

Image

precipitate
Posts: 746
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere near an ocean and a desert and a mountain

Post by precipitate » Tue Dec 16, 2003 7:23 pm

> Seriously if the cafe does end up contributing to the general fund after
> all expenses are addressed, would any of you out there who object to it
> now not mind so much?

No. I still mind. It's still directly contrary to part of the stated mission of
the event. And Chai Guy was right on. That argument is absolutely no
different from people hocking shit to pay for their tickets. They can do
it off-playa, but not during the event.

> I really don't get the cups/trash problem.

Really? You don't get that providing public trash receptacles flies in the
face of the take care of your own shit policy (otherwise known as leave no
trace) that is central to the event's existence? When I'm in a theme
camp, and there's a trash receptacle, I know that some participant is
going to be schlepping that shit to the nearest dump after the event,
causing personal expenditure of time and money. When I'm in the cafe,
I know that some DPW volunteer with a rented dumpster is taking care of
my shit after the event. So guess what? I've paid for trash disposal for
everyone who patronized the cafe in the last six years, even though I've
never used those services myself (well, maybe once in '98)! Yippee!

I get that if they're going to sell coffee and give away cups, it's difficult to
force people to use their fucking brains and take the trash home with
them, so providing trash barrels is useful. However, I'd prefer to see it
done the way I did it in my bar. Trash receptacles are behind the bar. If
you want to use them, even for the cup I gave you, you have to ask.
Very few people left our bar with our cups. Very few left them lying
around. Most politely asked if we could take care of the trash, and some
even asked if they could add their own trash to ours, and we agreed. The
personal interaction was pleasant, and human, and worked really well. It
might not work well on the scale of the cafe; I don't know.

precipitate
Posts: 746
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2003 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere near an ocean and a desert and a mountain

Post by precipitate » Tue Dec 16, 2003 7:26 pm

> And they don't make money???

According to the FAQ, proceeds from the cafe go directly to funding the
commissary, which feeds DPW and some other volunteers. So the profits
don't go into the cash fund.

And yes, I think this is an excellent use for the proceeds. The commissary
serves a useful function. If you're in the business of feeding people, then
you might as well use your profit centers to subsidize it. What I object to
is there being profit centers at all *during the event.*

User avatar
Zane5100
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 9:51 am
Location: closer than you think

Re: Here we go again

Post by Zane5100 » Wed Dec 17, 2003 8:48 am

KellY wrote:I really don't get the cups/trash problem. The cafe provides cups and a place to dispose of them. Would it be better to serve coffee and NOT have trash cans for them? If it makes you feel better, the cups are made from recycled material.
I don't appreciate people walking into my camp so we can just be their trash disposal service.

Especially when people riding by throw that trash at something that vaugely resembles a trashcan, and since it isn't a trashcan, I'm left to clean up their shit while they take off down the street.

Granted this is less of a problem the farther you are from Center Camp, but that's because the cocksucking fuckwits have already dumped their shit somewhere else close to Center Camp.

For the last four years I've camped within 1 block of Center Camp (and this past year in Center Camp), and the trash issue has been a problem every year I've been there.

The solution, from my point of view--sell all the fucking coffee they fucking can, but do not supply cups. Make people bring their own fucking cup--or is this concept too hard to grasp for people on a LNT camping trip?

And no, I could give a shit if the cups are made of recycled whatever--they're going into rolloff dumpster in the end. If people used their own cups, then you are reducing even more waste--if that's something that matters to someone out there.
middle-aged, wannabe-hipster, dilettante

User avatar
unjonharley
Posts: 10321
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2003 11:05 am
Burning Since: 2001
Camp Name: Elliot's naked bycycel repair
Location: Salem Or.

Post by unjonharley » Wed Dec 17, 2003 8:57 am

Now now Zane, YOu don't want to place the hardship "of bring you own cup" on these "please take care of me" fuckwits.
I'm the contraptioneer your mother warned you about.

User avatar
Zane5100
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2003 9:51 am
Location: closer than you think

Post by Zane5100 » Wed Dec 17, 2003 8:59 am

unjonharley wrote:Now now Zane, YOu don't want to place the hardship "of bring you own cup" on these "please take care of me" fuckwits.
*snort*

There are plenty of other hardships I would love to visit on those dogshit bootscrapings.
middle-aged, wannabe-hipster, dilettante

User avatar
theCryptofishist
Posts: 40313
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 9:28 am
Burning Since: 2017
Location: In Exile

Post by theCryptofishist » Fri Jul 09, 2004 1:51 pm

I brought up the topic in another thread, so I might as well let people see some of the previous debate on the subject.

Post Reply

Return to “Philosophical Center”