‘Gorilla’ war ends as new staff reopens Fifth Avenue coffee shop

Java the hurt! Gorilla Coffee sues the New York Times
Photo by Bess Adler

Park Slopers can once again get their caffeine fix at Gorilla Coffee, which reopened on Monday after a stunning walkout by the entire staff two weeks ago forced the Fifth Avenue java joint to suddenly shut down.

Lines weren’t out the door as usual this morning, but the coffee was just as strong.

“People in the neighborhood are still finding out that we are open,” said Carol McLaughlin, one of the owners of the café. But that was about all McLaughlin had to say regarding her just-reopened business, which became mired in controversy two weeks ago.

“I really don’t want to talk about this,” McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to move forward.”

But there is no doubt McLaughlin and her co-owner, Darleen Scherer, were left scrambling after the abrupt walk-out of all of their workers on April 11. Scherer had said that she was completely taken by surprise by the employee exodus, which occurred after tensions boiled over between the staff and ownership.

The two-week delay in reopening can likely be attributed to the high-end coffee culture in Park Slope, which requires a level of skill and knowledge that goes beyond one lump or two. These days, a barista’s duties aren’t just pulling a few levers and steaming some cappuccinos — training is required.

The manager on duty at the café, which is at Park Place, confirmed this, saying she and the other new employees had just been through “a very rigorous training process.”

But the manager, Caitlin Geoghan, knew what she was getting into

“I knew Gorilla by reputation,” she said.

There is little doubt that Gorilla’s reputation has taken a hit, however. The open letter penned by the former staff — and hanged, Martin Luther-style, on the front door — described a “perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” that was “unhealthy” and “unworkable.”

At the center of this maelstrom was McLaughlin, who was characterized as an authoritarian drill sergeant/barista, who demanded the utmost care from her legion of caffeine artists.

What remains to be seen is if lefty Park Slope residents will shun the café now that all its dirty laundry has been aired in public. Previous labor unrest in the neighborhood, such as the stunning revelations regarding underpaid deliverymen, resulted in no discernable change in behavior.

Gorilla Coffee co-owner Darleen Scherer has reopened after he full staff walkout.