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Toronto Anti-capitalist Coffee Shop Goes Bust After Just 14 Months in Business

After subsidizing "pay what you can" 12 ounce drip coffees with $4 espressos called "The Marx and Engels" showed itself a failed business model, The Anarchist dropped expletives at "the colonial death camp we call 'Canada'" in a farewell notice on its website.
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: May 16, 2023
Anti-capitalist Marxist coffee shop The Anarchist in Toronto is out of business after just 14 months
A file photo of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman holding a cup from the Tim Hortons coffee chain in April of 2017 during a game. An anti-capitalist themed coffee shop employing heavy socialist rhetoric in downtown Toronto called The Anarchist has gone under after just 14 months in business. (Image: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

A coffee shop in Toronto, Canada created and operating with heavy leftist and anti-capitalism overtones is going out of business after only 14 months in operation.

In question is a shop called The Anarchist located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Launched in March of 2022, a lengthy Instagram diatribe published on the business’s Instagram page at the time alleged that cafe owners profit unfairly from the labor of employees, conditioning them to work as something of slaves.

The Anarchist stated it believed “the purpose of a business in the context of a capitalist world system” was two-fold.

One is to “provide workers with…the material wealth needed to meet all of their needs in life” while under a work environment that “causes the minimal amount possible of psychological and physical stress.”

The second was “to perform whatever function the workers decide, in whatever way the workers decide to do it.”


An April of 2022 article on The Anarchist published on the BlogTO website stated that a man who left a six-year career in an undisclosed field had launched the business as a “result of what he says was the disconnect between his radical leftist politics and the person he had to be for 40+ hours a week.”

“Currently, he’s the only employee but hopes to grow the business into a worker-owned and operated co-op where every single person (himself included) is paid the same with all operational business decisions being made by consensus-based democracy free of managers or institutional hierarchy,” the article added.

BlogTO chronicled how, at first, the business met with success, quoting the owner as stating, “I knew the world was full of radical progressives, and hoping to meet more of them was one motivation for doing what I’m doing, but I didn’t anticipate so much enthusiasm every day so early on.”

Evidently, the owner decided to institute a pricing model where punters could pay what they wanted for their drink, stating, “One thing I want to make more people aware of is that I’m doing Pay What You Can drip coffee, as the first of hopefully many attempts to make great, non-corporate coffee more accessible to the working class people who are increasingly denied the good things we all deserve.”

An examination of the cafe’s menu shows that a 12 ounce drip coffee is listed at a price of “pay what you can,” a sunk cost model theoretically subsidized by drinks such as a $4 single espresso with milk dubbed The Marx & Engels and “merch” like a $5.75 sticker employing vulgarity against Amazon and its former CEO Jeff Bezos.

Fast forward to May 13 of 2023 where BlogTO published a new article titled Toronto’s Proudly Anti-capitalist Cafe Is Permanently Closing  based on a closure notice published on The Anarchist website.

Announcing a closure date of May 30, the cafe made a point of thanking the many “great community members” while lauding itself for “raising the blood pressure of Conservatives,” a designation which it made a point of noting included “anarcho-capitalists” and “Libertarians.”

But the fan fare was short lived as the owner was forced to admit that “the lack of generational wealth/seed capital from ethically bankrupt sources left me unable to weather the quiet winter season, or to grow in the ways needed to be sustainable longer-term.”

The missive is nothing if not honest in that it alludes to a cold reality wherein the shop and its owner were able to survive as long as it had, less from the “so much enthusiasm every day so early on,” and more from the charitable tolerance of its landlords.

Alluding to the former owners of the location, The Anarchist stated, “I’d like to say a huge thank you to Pop Coffee Works, my coffee supplier and landlords, for their generosity and patience; they could easily have sold this space, or rented for more than twice what they’ve charged me, so this place wouldn’t have existed without them.”

The man also added, “I would also like to thank my partners, friends, and family for their huge amounts of support, without which I’d honestly be dead, or at least unhoused by now.”

In closing their statement, the cafe owner directed expletives at “the rich,” “the police,” “the state,” and “the colonial death camp we call “Canada’.”

It is probable that The Anarchist was not as well supported in the community as proclaimed.

An article published by The Daily Hive less than three months after the cafe’s opening chronicled a chain of “social media backlash” that came from a demographic outside of “Conservatives” that should have been a profitable target market for the business.

One TikTok influencer who currently has 313,000 followers chastised the shop: “Charging $5 for coffee that costs 30 cents to make. That is capitalism.”

“Don’t [expletive] lie and say you’re for the people. $5 cappuccinos are not for the people,” they added.

The shop decided to respond to the criticism… in all the wrong ways.

In a post on Instagram retrieved by the Hive, The Anarchist went bombastic, “If you’re too cynical to HOPE that someone might be legit, too lazy to ask questions and too addicted to the smug, snarky sound of your own online persona to contribute more to the left than in fighting and lightning speed policing of other leftists” before dropping some choice four letter chains in the influencer’s direction.

A Twitter user who keeps their account anonymous was quoted as stating, “Rest in peace Marx and Engels you would have loved the anarchist coffee shop in downtown Toronto that is charging 4 dollars for a coffee in your name.”

Another Twitter user quipped in response to a video post on the opening of the cafe by BlogTO, “For an ‘anti-capitalist’ charging $4.75 for a donut or a cookie seems like a bit much,” accompanied by a photo of the menu selling “Glory Hole Doughnuts” and breakfast cookies for the aforementioned prices.

An examination of the company’s Google Reviews are likewise bleak in terms of business sense.

One man named Eduardo left a one-star review dated 2 weeks ago, placing it in the first days of May, where they commented, “Coffee is mid… its not worth the price they are asking for… wouldn’t it make sense for someone to pay for someone’s Coffee since it’s an anti-capitalists? Like they would just give out free coffee and food as it should be. But no they still take people’s money even if you poor or person of color. It would also make sense if indigenous people get free service since all the white people there basically stole there land. They need to pay reparations. If not, are they really a anti-capitalists business?”

The Anarchist replied, “Little late to the stupid party Eduardo….”

Another two-star review dating back to February by a Google Local Guide with 102 reviews complained that staff “called me names and chased me out of the store” while rating the food 5/5 but the atmosphere and service 1/5 was met with the rebuttal: “This is the funniest thung [sic] you could come up with?”

Ownership’s mood may have been, understandably, linked to financial hardship.

In December during “the quiet winter season,” a reviewer was disappointed with their experience, stating, “I was just passing by here and I got a coffee which tasted horrible.” 

They added that the cafe “was an interesting place so I looked it up,” before commenting, “The owners should educate themselves on what Capitalism is. Since this is not a non-profit organization the fact that you get to overcharge for a horrible coffee IS CAPITALISM.”

Responses were notably much more civil during this era, “I’m sorry you didn’t like the coffee – it’s very popular, but admittedly doesn’t taste like ‘normal’ coffee.”

The Anarchist added, “Unfortunately, you seem confused between commerce and capitalism, like many people. Understandable, but a strange basis for a criticism.”