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Archive for Monday, July 4, 1994

COFFEE WARS ARE PERCOLATING

July 4, 1994

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Several businesses in town are capitalizing on a coffeehouse trend boiling over from the West Coast.

A coffee war appears to be brewing in downtown Lawrence, to cater to those who love a fine cup of java.

The newest, the Bourgeois Pig, a "coffee and wine bar," opened Friday morning at 6 E. Ninth, right next door to the EspressO'House, 10 E. Ninth, a restaurant/coffee shop that opened six months ago.

Meanwhile, Java Break, a small shop that will sell coffee and non-alcoholic daiquiris, will open in about a month at 17 E. Seventh.

It will be right around the corner from La Prima Tazza, 638 Mass., a coffee shop that's been a mainstay of downtown caffeine cravers for the last four years, selling drinks and whole-bean coffee.

Meanwhile, other places along Massachusetts also are getting into the high-end coffee craze. For example, Cafe Terra Nova, 920 Mass., is a bookstore/cafe that sells fine coffee. They and other restaurants around town also offer espresso, cappuccino and lattes to their clientele.

"There's a lot of copy-catting going on around the country," said Bart Smith, owner of La Prima Tazza. Most of the new ones don't know beans about coffee, he said, but have smelled the coffee house trend seeping from Seattle and are after a quick buck.

Smith doesn't think Lawrence can handle too many coffee shops because the population isn't big enough.

"When the dust settles, the people who know the quality and know the facets of coffee will be the people who will be still standing," he said.

Jim O'Keefe, who owns EspressO'House, 10 E. Ninth, bought it seven months ago. O'Keefe, who is from Biloxi, Miss., offers pastries, scones, southern fare and a light lunch. He's fairly new to the restaurant business, but learned about coffee at Fitti's in Kansas City, Kan.

He thinks there's plenty of room for new coffee shops because, he says, once people try a good cappuccino, "coffee takes on a whole new meaning."

Derek Hogan, one of the owners of Java Break, says he hopes to attract the late-night, after-bar business and early risers on their way to the office. They plan to offer pastries, bagels and espresso drinks, will sell Kansas University student artwork and hope to get poets to read their work.

"When the students come back, we think we'll be able to tap into the student market," Hogan said.

The Bourgeois Pig will offer its clientele a place to have an alcoholic drink as well as fine coffee, said Charlie Whitman, one of the owners. He said the drinking establishment's patrons will eventually be able to sip their coffee at outdoor tables. The bar currently features artwork by author William Burroughs, who makes Lawrence his home.

Whitman, a local attorney, said he hoped the Bourgeois Pig, as well as restaurants and bars in Lawrence, could help attract more tourists to Lawrence, including those tired of Kansas City's Westport area.

Whitman downplayed the idea of a downtown coffee war.

"Many, many more people are enjoying a sophisticated drink," he said. "It's not an upper-class thing. It cuts right across social and economic boundaries. Pretty much everybody has enough money to buy themselves one nice thing. And that can be a really good coffee."

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