Do Restaurants Get A Political Voice?
I spend many happy mornings at Joe: The Art of Coffee, my favorite neighborhood café (which I will stubbornly contend serves New York’s best cappuccino). In recent weeks, there’s been a big smiling muffin drawn on the chalkboard sign out front—boldly captioned, "Sponsored In Part by Muffins For Obama."
They’re not the only Obama-heads in the neighborhood. A sign at the Gray’s Papaya a block away occupies an entire window: "YES Senator Obama, We Are Ready To Believe Again." The letters are as big as the ones proclaiming their "Famous Hot Doggery." At Penny Licks in Williamsburg, two handwritten signs hang next to each other, one listing the price of their Brooklyn Egg Cream, the other reading, "Vote for Obama!"
Personally, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I walk by my neighborhood sign. Since I take a pro-Obama, pro-muffin stance, a smiling Democratic muffin—plus the promise of delicious coffee ahead—makes my morning.
At the same time, though, I’m not sure that politically neutral establishments (like coffee shops) should risk alienating customers. There's no doubt that we differ in our political views—if I walked into, say, a café in St. Louis and saw a sign proclaiming “Quiche Lorraine for McCain,” I might feel a tad uncomfortable.
Of course, in New York City this is less of an issue—Joe’s Coffee, after all, is in a notoriously liberal neighborhood in a decidedly Democratic city of an already blue state. New York Magazine claimed today that “something approaching nine out of ten New York voters will pull the lever for Barack Obama two weeks from now.” Still, though—politics are inherently divisive, and coffee shops shouldn’t be.
What do you think? Should restaurant owners make known their political stances, if they so choose? Or should partisan positions be left at the café door?