Crime

Arsonists Against Topless Coffee

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The Grandview Coffee Shop seemed like a welcome addition to the local economy of Vassalboro, Maine, when it opened in February. Owner Donald Crabtree interviewed 150 applicants for only ten server positions.

Yesterday, though, the shop was destroyed in a fire. The Boston Globe reports that the fire marshal's office is calling it arson. Who would be so heartless as to burn down an independent, small-town coffee shop? It might have something to do with owner Donald Crabtree's unique business model:

The shop brought a wave of publicity to the town of 4,400 people when Crabtree announced plans to have topless waitresses serve coffee and doughnuts between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Nothing in local ordinances barred such an establishment.

No one knows for sure, but the Globe article seems to imply that the arsonist disapproved of Grandview's loose employee attire policies. Before the uninsured building was destroyed, Crabtree—ever the innovative entrepreneur—was announcing plans to turn his shop into what sounds like a dry gentlemen's club:

Crabtree had proposed extending the shop hours until 1 a.m., adding music, and expanding parking. No alcohol would be served, Crabtree told the [Vassalboro] Planning Board.

The semi-nude baristas would also be allowed to dance.

Before anyone gets happy about averting moral armageddon in Vassalboro, Crabtree plans to reopen his shop. Next Monday, a Vassalboro Town Meeting—planned before the arson—will consider "regulating sexually oriented businesses," according to the Globe. Which raises the question: What's the sexual orientation of a business?

In the January 2003 print edition of Reason, Jackson Kuhl served up some useful coffee commentary. Also read Kerry Howley's 2005 article on why coffee is good for you—no matter what your waitress isn't wearing.

NEXT: Mother Jones: "Sotomayor doesn't write very well"

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  1. Before the uninsured building was destroyed, Crabtree-ever the innovative entrepreneur

    Innovative and stupid…

    …but he must be doing very well to be able to rebuild despite being uninsured.

  2. Topless baristas? OK. But if they scald their nugs with steam from one of those espresso machines I could see the place getting “regulated” in a hurry.

  3. Hey, and that one barista in the picture has some awfully hairy tatas. WUWD?

  4. Time to investigate the staff at Starbucks.

  5. If topless servers offend you, burning the building down is OBVIOUSLY easier than just, say, not buying your coffee at that particular shop.

  6. This is worse than anything the Vandals did. MONSTERS.

  7. “Also read Kerry Howley’s 2005 article on why coffee is good for you”

    I vote that Reason use topless writers (with photos of the writing process).

  8. What. A. Travesty.

  9. I try to avoid hating people in groups, but I fucking hate Puritans.

    -jcr

  10. At first, i thought this was a “toothless” coffeeshop, but that would describe every coffeeshop in Maine.

  11. If topless servers offend you, burning the building down is OBVIOUSLY easier than just, say, not buying your coffee at that particular shop.

    Come on now Jennifer…we all know that isn’t the point.

    The point is to prevent anyone from buying coffee there — the place is “immoral” for God sakes. Completely anathema to good American values.

  12. What’s the sexual orientation of a business?

    What would you like it to be?

  13. Those girls aren’t bad looking, for Mainers.

  14. The point is to prevent anyone from buying coffee there

    Really? You think the place was torched by a bunch of militant anti-caffeine whackos?

    -jcr

  15. Really? You think the place was torched by a bunch of militant anti-caffeine whackos?

    Nah, just militant anti-letting-anyone-look-at-some-boobies whackos. There’s an awful huge Puritan streak in this country, in every state, in both wings of the Major Political Party.

  16. I think we could have done better than that pic.

  17. Obviously the work of Mormon extremists.

  18. When do we get to start burning Puritans?

  19. Does anyone know where Mitt Romney was on the night in question?

    -jcr

  20. “Before the uninsured building was destroyed, Crabtree-ever the innovative entrepreneur

    Innovative and stupid…”

    I’m surprised you didn’t say “tough titties”

  21. It has to be said: this business surely brought a whole new dimension to the question of “should I leave room for milk?”

    Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the veal.

  22. “The semi-nude baristas would also be allowed to dance.”

    Quote of the day.

  23. “Does anyone know where Mitt Romney was on the night in question?”

    Where he is every night, in Kathyrn Jean-Lopez’s dreams.

  24. i’ve never been to hooters and i can’t imagine going to a topless coffee shop. i dont know. i love tits probably more than the next guy…but i dont get it.

    guys what’s the deal? you get to eat/drink coffee while realizing that it’s the only way you can see said tits, awkwardly conversing with tits in your immediate vicinity (totally shorting out my brain)…awkwardly trying to tabulate a tip…probably based on breast size….all while in furtherance of an awkward erection.

    i also don’t understand lapdances. i either shoot my load in my pants or i’ve just stuffed many dollars into a g-string to be titillated just before the point of climax. i’m paying for blue balls?

    i’ve heard of people wearing a condom BEFORE going in and that takes care of everything. if this is the etiquette, A) that is fucked and B)no thank you

  25. Free Markets
    Free Minds
    Free Mammaries

  26. “guys what’s the deal? you get to eat/drink coffee while realizing that it’s the only way you can see said tits, awkwardly conversing with tits in your immediate vicinity (totally shorting out my brain)…”

    I spent my younger years playing in a road band that toured the country. During the lean first couple of years, we played a lot of clubs that used strippers as a warm-up act. At first, I was amazed and slightly short circuited, but soon you get used to it and bare titties become little more than a vase full of pretty flowers on the table.

  27. I try to avoid hating people in groups, but I fucking hate Puritans.

    Puritans never burned down coffee shops. Well, maybe Cromwell did, but I’m not aware of arson being used by Puritans west of the Atlantic.

  28. My plan:

    1) Rent out a conference room in a sleazy motel
    2) post ads in the local paper looking for topless waitresses / dancers
    3) Conduct interviews and enjoy the free show

    Is this legal?

  29. Brandybuck-

    King Phillip and the Wamponoags beg to differ.

  30. Or they would beg, if, y’know, there were any left.

  31. Arrest Bill O’Reilly.

  32. “Arrest Bill O’Reilly.”

    I just hope there is footage of the waitresses at work pre-fire. If so, then surely O’Reilly will do the story.

  33. There used to be a topless donut shop in Ft. Lauderdale that was a required visit for every young male during Spring Break.

  34. Before the uninsured building was destroyed, Crabtree-ever the innovative entrepreneur

    Innovative and stupid…

    …but he must be doing very well to be able to rebuild despite being uninsured.

    Your second point refutes your first. If he is as well off as he apparently is to rebuild without insurance, then it may well have been a sound, rational decision to self-insure. I doubt he, or anyone else, really thought the business faced a heightened risk of burning due to militant mammarian protesters. Obviously in hindsight he would have been better off with insurance but that’s not the correct standard for judging the reasonableness of his decision.

  35. There was also a topless donut shop called “Debbie Does Donuts” near Ft. Collins, CO. It was shut down due to back room gambling.

  36. Bullshit. Property and Casualty Insurance is a rick based business, so if he, or anyone else, would doubt the place would be burned to the ground by militant mammarian protestors, the rates would have been relatively small. So it would have been a sound investment to insure, especially in the early stages of the business where the property owner has probably not built up enough surplus capital with which to rebuild.

    It leads me to believe this guy may be wealthy independent of this endeavor and he just wanted a place to see tits every day and offer a service to others. If I were rich I could see opening a business just because I wanted what that business offered, and if others want it and it makes a little extra money, cool.

  37. It’s those “Christian” values like murder, arson, vandalism and hate.

    I used to have the Darwin fish on my car but I got tired or replacing it every time it was stolen (at least weekly), so I put on a bumper sticker of the same thing instead. That got the rear bumper of my car spray painted black.

    Reminds me of Hymn 43 (by Jethro Tull):

    “If Jesus saves – well, He’d better save Himself
    from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death.”

  38. The other possibility is the reverse, Nick.

    Maybe it’s very expensive to insure “sexually oriented” businesses that have received threats from angry Puritans.

    I saw this story yesterday, but didn’t understand something about it until just now – it’s a coffee shop because it’s non-alcoholic. Usually strip clubs are prevented from opening by the simple expedient of finding some pretext to not give them a liquor license [in one of the uncountable instances of the misuse of licensing codes to accomplish ends unrelated to public health and safety]. This guy opened a coffee shop to evade the regulators. Now I understand better why he was the target of arson – probably some Puritan thought he was “cheating”, by offering the shop in a way that prevented the usual bullshit community nonsense from being used to stop him, and felt “entitled” to use arson in response.

  39. Bullshit. Property and Casualty Insurance is a rick based business, so if he, or anyone else, would doubt the place would be burned to the ground by militant mammarian protestors, the rates would have been relatively small.

    Notwithstanding the unnecessarily obnoxious expletive, that is true.

    So it would have been a sound investment to insure,

    That is not, on its face, true. It may or may not be depending on the individual’s financial situation and his personal risk tolerance. There is simply no way you can know whether insurance (or any other investment for that matter) is or is not “sound” for a specific individual without knowing more about that person.

  40. When do we get to start burning Puritans?

    You know, if all of the non-puritans would hide/go somewhere else for a few years, eventually the puritans would just start burning themselves. History has shown this to be true.

  41. Nah, just militant anti-letting-anyone-look-at-some-boobies whackos.

    Next, we have coming up: The Bonfire of the National Geographics

  42. Bullshit. Property and Casualty Insurance is a rick based business, . . .

    I think you’re thinking of the Cafe Americain.

  43. Fluffy may be right as to why rates are high, but if he can afford to rebuild, he should be able to afford the insurance which would almost undoubtedly be MUCH less than that cost.

    Brian, I conceded he may not have needed the insurance due to wealth from something else, but this place hasn’t been open very long. He either has other money, hence his ability to rebuild without insurance, or he should have had insurance. We know enough about the business (it’s fairly new, and has some risk — as a patronized establishment) to know insurance was a sound investment unless this is his hobby, which I suggested may be the case.

  44. Malto, RC’z law strikes again.

  45. Fluffy may be right as to why rates are high, but if he can afford to rebuild, he should be able to afford the insurance which would almost undoubtedly be MUCH less than that cost.

    You SO don’t understand insurance. OK, here goes (from a former insurance underwriter):

    Insurance companies are in the business of making money off insurance. On average, over long periods of time, the people who invest in insurance get back less than the amount they pay in premiums.

    The whole point of insurance is that the marginal value of a dollar varies with how much money you have. If you’re a homeless person who has just ten bucks to your name, an additional extra ten bucks is worth a lot to you. If you earn a million bucks a year, an additional ten bucks is chump change.

    So, if you can afford to rebuild after a fire without straining your financial resources, and you think the insurance company has priced the risk accurately, you’re better off financially self-insuring.

    But if losing the building in a fire will leave you in a world of hurt, you should insure the risk despite knowing that on average you will get a return of less than 100% of your premiums, because the marginal value of your insurance premiums is less than the marginal value of an insurance payout when you’re desperately cash-strapped after a fire.

    And it’s just clueless to say, “the insurance which would almost undoubtedly be MUCH less than that cost”, because the owner did not know that there was a 100% probability that the fire was going to occur. That’s why they’re called “risks”, not “outcomes that have already happened”.

    /insurance seminar

  46. If topless servers offend you, burning the building down is OBVIOUSLY easier than just, say, not buying your coffee at that particular shop.

    I think the idea is that it sends a message.

    The only question left is which christian did it? Or wait, what’s the muslim population like up in those parts?

  47. militant mammarian protesters

    Awesome.

    That is all.

  48. “So, if you can afford to rebuild after a fire without straining your financial resources, and you think the insurance company has priced the risk accurately, you’re better off financially self-insuring.”

    Precisely. Insurance is for when you can’t afford an unlikely, but possible, catastrophe. This guy could, so there really wasn’t a point. Insurance companies benefit from having more available capital than you do. Doesn’t seem to a problem for this guy.

  49. Can I squeeze a little milk in your coffee, Mister?

  50. If you are going to be banning all sexually-oriented businesses, then you will have to close just about any business that carries a product advertised in national television. The vast majority of major products use sex to advertise. Instead of having some attractive person pitching his product on TV, this guy used topless waitresses.

    I read about this in another article before. Apparently, the majority of people in that town could have cared less about the coffee shop and the waitresses’ state of dress (or rather undress). At least this is how the author of the article was painting things. However, a few people were very vocally against it. One of these critics even went as far to say that 97% of the people in that town condoned the arson. By this person’s logic, that whole business, with a staff of at least 10, was able to survive off of 20 customers (assuming there was no mass daily migration of people just to buy coffee).

    This is one of those times I wish the silent majority would not remain silent. It is not the government’s job to make sure we lead a moral and religious life.

  51. Raquel,

    in Maine, it’s pronounced “Mistah”

  52. Fluffy may be right as to why rates are high, but if he can afford to rebuild, he should be able to afford the insurance which would almost undoubtedly be MUCH less than that cost.

    You SO don’t understand insurance.

    He’s just using the same logic by which folks conclude that lottery winners were “smart” to have bought the ticket: once you know the outcome the correct course is obvious, so why couldn’t that moron see it before?

    Back when I lived in Texas (more that a decade ago) I’d done a crappy statistical analysis (using data out of the newspaper) of the lottery and concluded that tickets were break-even investments when the prize got to roughly 30 million. I think I’m down $3 out of $5. Was I being smart or dumb? Why?

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  54. i’m sure that the coffee they serve will surely perk you up.

    contractor bonds

  55. i really would like to try their latte. just to see if it can perk me up.

    contractor bonds

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