ink! Coffee has suddenly become notorious on social media after a post about a sign they placed outside their Larimer Street location was spread on Wednesday.
The store confirmed to Next with Kyle Clark that they've placed a sign outside their Larimer and 29th location in Five Points that reads "Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014!"
Almost half a dozen viewers sent the sign to 9NEWS, with several more sending them to Next as well.
The sign had a second side that wasn't posted: "Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado."
Thanks to a host of negative reviews, the company's rating on Facebook has plummeted to 1.6 stars on Facebook - with hundreds of 1-star reviews filed on Wednesday.
The specific location on Larimer has dozens of users just posting the sign with a quick comment and a 1-star review on Yelp; the rating of the Larimer location has dipped below two stars while the rest sit 3+ stars.
Gentrification is a hot-button issue affecting Denver. It is defined as the process of renovating and improving a district to conform to middle-class taste - more commonly it's understood to mean when richer people move into a poorer neighborhood and start rebuilding the area to change its costs and culture.
"The cost of this growth is the displacement of [Denver]’s remaining working class," reads an article on gentrification in Denver posted on theguardian.com.
In response, Next reached out to speak with the owner. Keith "Herbie" Herbert got back to us on Facebook but only released a statement publicly; refusing to speak with our own Marshall Zelinger on camera.
Ru Johnson talked to Zelinger - she shared a photo on Twitter.
"I think it does a disservice to the culture of this neighborhood that makes it the reason why this place even wanted to bring their coffee here in the first place," she said.
Sean MacEachen lives nearby. He told Next he saw the sign on Twitter and wanted to talk to them about it. Despite usually being open until 6 p.m., he got there early and found the door locked.
"I saw it and I couldn't believe it," he told Next. "I was just going to come down here and ask what they were thinking when they made that sign."
He acknowledged some people don't mind gentrification, but still wanted to see what the company had to say.
"I'm sure the yuppies love [the sign]," he continued. "But the people who live here don't."
ink! posted the following to Facebook, receiving near-universal ridicule for making a joke whole apologizing about their joke.
Hmmm. We clearly drank too much of our own product and lost sight of what makes our community great. We sincerely apologize for our street sign. Our (bad) joke was never meant to offend our vibrant and diverse community. We should know better. We hope you will forgive us.
The company released several more statements over Facebook Messenger to 9NEWS:
We temporarily lost sight of what makes our community great. We are proud to be part of this diverse community, and we unequivocally apologize. We should have known better, and we hope you will forgive us.
We are sincerely sorry.
Customers dropped poor reviews and ravaged the company on Facebook Wednesday:
"Great to know that your coffee and sense of humor equally suck," wrote user Amy McCulley.
One user just said "white privilege." Another asked if the employees were drunk. The majority of comments and reviews had profanity in them.
Those comments and the original apology have been deleted. They've also shut off reviews for their coffee shop and deleted recent Facebook posts.
Someone wrote on the side of the Larimer Street location with graffiti on Thanksgiving Day. "white coffee. [sic]," was all the message said.
The owner released another apology on Thanksgiving Day. It is embedded below:
The NAACP issued a statement about condemning the sign on Wednesday night. They asked that it be removed immediately.
You can read the full statement below:
The sign outside your Larimer location, which advertises that your company has been "happily gentrifying" the Larimer community for the last three years, has been brought to the attention of representatives of the NAACP CO MT WY State Conference.
The NAACP advocates for policies that ensure equality of rights for all people. Additionally, the NAACP addresses complaints of racism, prejudice and discrimination.
Your sign referenced above has been flagged as mocking of and hurtful to those, especially African Americans and other POC, who have been forced to surrender their homes and businesses to deep pocket gentrification efforts in Denver's central/downtown communities.
As such, we request that this sign be removed immediately and permanently. And, we stand ready to meet with you so that all concerned can avoid future harm to either community or your business.