A simple question for today, is it good business for a coffee shop to endorse someone in a political race? At a few coffee houses, I have seen expressions of opinion, posters, and the stickers supporting one candidate or another. So what do you think? Is it okay for a coffee house to support a single candidate or should businesses remain silent so they don’t alienate customers.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Pierce/Bear

    Tough call here.

    Considering that coffeehouses were/are known for having a slight (or not so slight) anarchist streak————–by nature most of above would tilt towards the Left AKA ‘liberal’ causes (Obama) comes to mind.

  2. From a patriotic perspective:
    Take a stance, and inform your customers.

    From a business perspective:
    Expect to lose customers who don’t agree with you. Unless your product is so good they can’t go anywhere else.

  3. A lot depends on how the opinion is expressed. A bumper sticker on display is no big deal, but business owners can hurt themselves when they throw themselves into online debates in Internet forums, especially when their business names and URLs appear in their profiles, thereby suggesting they are speaking on behalf of their businesses. I can think of a handful of local businesses I seldom bother to visit, in part because their owners have expressed too many opinions that displease me, and in part because the expression of those opinions has been needlessly rude and confrontational.

  4. During election time it is impossible to avoid political discussions. Everyone has an opinion and is entitled to it. As a military family, we lean to the right – most of our customers know it. We also get asked a lot what are stance is on specific issues. I think it is good to engage and discuss but not get heated. Sometimes that is easier than others. There are 2 sides to every position and we all have diverse backgrounds.
    We do not seek out political discussions, but do not shy away if asked. The trick is knowing when to say when. We are not out to lose customers over a difference in opinion. That is the beauty of this country and exactly what the military is here to protect – the right for all of us to speak freely and have an opinion. (among other things!)

  5. Everyone is entitled to their opinion which is what democracy is about. I think it is in bad form for a business to endorse a candidate, particularly in a very strong overt way.

    This is of course unless it is a third party underdog candidate. That is almost expected of a coffee shop. Thats why the New Times came out in the first place, right?

  6. Jim

    Weren’t both American and French Revolutions hatched in coffee houses?
    A coffeehouse is a perfect place for political discourse.

    A good coffee house should be similar to a good bar except with more coherent conversations.

  7. Having stood behind many a bar in my few years, I have learned that 90% of Good Conversation is listening, and I have inevitably heard some whacked out stuff. I can usually make somebody feel great with a well placed “Oh, really!” or a subtle nod of my head. These actions, while only partially affirmational are not meant rudely, or dismissively, but rather to make the guest feel comfortable. As time goes by, my comfort level with a person might get to the point where I will show a few of my cards.

    All of us can agree that we’re in a mess right now, and that there are many solutions. Unfortunately, with the current state of both political parties, it is unfortunate that the more polarized right and left wings of the parties often don’t see the shades of grey that stand between them and other patriotic Americans.

    I see more dissent over ballot propositions, especially with the smoking initiatives on the last cycle. I did have several equally loyal customers chastising me over my refusal to put up signs supporting their (different) sides. I wasn’t getting out of that one without losing customers, either from the bar across the street, or the neighbors around the corner. I demurred, and kept their custom.

    Although I do feel like I am being a bit dishonest by not taking a public stand for a candidate, even though I know who I’m voting for.

  8. October 4 Update:
    Bailout passed. Bill, the mess just got messier.

  9. It’s Patriotic to take part in the process. You may not want to throw the weight of your opinion behind a candidate, but you should at least support policies and propositions that you think should enrich the public. Post signs that endorse National Health Care, or the ‘No Smoking’ ban, or ‘Clean Air, Clean Energy’. You probably have an opinion on the platforms, even if you aren’t willing to share your preference for the candidate of your choice.
    Participate in or suffer from the process. That’s really the only two choices you have…
    You don’t have to back any particular person to actively participate in the politic of the country.

  10. Pretty good discussion everybody. Thanks for adding to the chatter!

  11. If people are really going to base where they get their coffee from based on who they endorse for president, well that’s their prerogative I suppose. Any action is going to have repercussions, positive and negative. If a coffee shop (or any business really) is going to publicly endorse anything, they had also better be prepared to answer why if asked.

    I think I’d have stronger feelings about a coffee house and who manages it depending on how they feel about certain propositions vs. simply who they endorse for president. Those can have more of a direct and immediate impact on us as a community (i.e. smoking ban), and definitely make me wonder if I want to continue giving my money to them.

    Great question!

  12. Michael T. is right – you may lose customers who disagree with you if you take an open stand. But you have first amendment rights, and candidate policies will impact small businesses if implemented. I think any action that encourages public discourse or gets people talking to each other is a good thing.

    I believe you can say who you support while making your customers feel that they, and their opinions, are still welcome in your establishment. Why not host a debate-watching event or election night vigil? Everyone needs coffee to stay up until the election results are in!

    Or find other ways to help your customers be good citizens and engage in the political process. That’s never a bad thing. Not ever.

  13. I find that my opinion of a place could easily be swayed by how politically active a coffee shop is for a candidate or for various issues. And that opinion could certainly cross over to how often i frequent a place. Especially since the majority of places i go to is not for the coffee alone but for the atmosphere.

    Locally i find issues to be a very strong personal point for me. Perhaps because it does effect us in the immediate and locally. If an establishment has strong political views that reflect a certain way on their patrons then i would expect that would have some negative repercussions.

    example: if a coffee shop has a yes on 102 sign then it would send a pretty bad message regarding tolerance of their patrons. This could seriously impact the opinion of the patrons who visit it for the negative or even perhaps the positive.

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