Apparently short of dating Peter Braunstein, the best way to ruin your life is to try and open an intimate, Vienna-style coffeehaus on the Lower East Side. Yesterday's Slate piece by Michael Idov is really cringe-inducing; in it, he tells of the year of horror that ensued when he and his wife opened Cafe Trotsky on Orchard Street just below Houston. Apparently, the economics of the independent coffee shop make bankruptcy almost inevitable:
A place that seats 25 will have to employ at least two people for every shift: someone to work the front and someone for the kitchen (assuming you find a guy who will both uncomplainingly wash dishes and reliably whip up pretty crepes; if you've found that guy, you're already in better shape than most NYC restaurateurs. You're also, most likely, already in trouble with immigration services). Budgeting $15 for the payroll for every hour your charming cafe is open (let's say 10 hours a day) relieves you of $4,500 a month. That gives you another $4,500 a month for rent and $6,300 to stock up on product. It also means that to come up with the total needed $18K of revenue per month, you will need to sell that product at an average of a 300 percent markup.
Damn! Guess our plan for a 1960s style cafe, where all the waiters wear berets and people applaud the folk singers on stage by snapping their fingers is probably going to have to be tabled for now.