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Wydown Abruptly Closes Both Coffee Shops

The popular Wydown coffee bar, known for specialty brews and baked goods, has announced the permanent closure of both locations effective Tuesday, May 14.

Wydown operates in the Avec buiding on H Street (600 H St. NE) and a second location 14th Street (1924 14th St. NW).

The closure comes amidst an effort by the employees at both locations to unionize. The union, Wydown Workers United, formed in April to address employee concerns about cafe operations including staffing, equipment function and compensation.

Union members see the closure as a measure of retaliation against their efforts. “Chad and Alex McCracken would rather put 30 people out of work than face a union election,” the union posted on their Instagram page.

Co-owner Alex McCracken said that after “10 great years” the decision to close was a year in the making. “Last year we realized we were ready for a change, and Tuesday, May 14th, was our last day of operations,” McCracken said in an email.

But employees said they had no inkling of the plan until last week, when employees of the H Street location reportedly found a draft copy of the letter that is now posted to the exterior doors of the closed cafes and website, announcing the closures.

When they first found it, Freidl said they assumed it was an “intimidation tactic” against their unionization efforts.

The union recently set an election date. Former employee Tom Freidl said he was confident the employees would have prevailed. Among their grievances, the union cited an increase in issues, such as cuts to store hours, refusal to promote employees, maintenance issues and unsafe condition. A post to instagram indicated that the union brought the issues to the employer and “were met with silence.”

Wydown employees were notified of the closure of the two DC cafes on Tuesday evening May 14. Photo: Wydown Workers United (Instagram).

Several employees gathered early Wednesday morning to picket outside of the closed cafes. They posted cardboard signs with phone numbers of management encouraging passers by to voice their dissatisfaction about the cafe’s closure and business practices.

Freidl worked at the coffee bar for nearly a year before the closure. He noted that the “majority” of those employed by the cafe were making $11 an hour and limited to part-time status without health care or other benefits. “We feel we are entitled to a greater share of the profits than $11 per hour,” Freidl said.

The abrupt decision has left nearly 30 employees out of work. “It’s pretty bleak,” Friedl said. “I’m lucky and I’ve got friends and family who can help me out, but a lot of people here are not that lucky and it puts them in a really tough spot.”

Former employees of the cafe have set up a GoFundMe page to assist those laid off and in an effort to “reopen [the cafes] and get [their] jobs back.” As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had received nearly $5,000 in donations.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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