Java the hurt! Gorilla Coffee sues the New York Times

Java the hurt! Gorilla Coffee sues the New York Times
Photo by Paul Martinka

The owners of Gorilla Coffee — where irate employees walked out en masse in April — are suing the New York Times for destroying their lives by covering the debacle.

Darleen Scherer and Carol McLaughlin, co-owners of the Fifth Avenue java joint, say the were subjected to “shame, emotional distress, embarrassment and … contempt and ridicule” after the Old Gray Lady reprinted the irate staff’s “defamatory” resignation letter.

It is unclear what was legally defamatory in the letter, which aired gripes that Scherer and McLaughlin had “a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” that was “unhealthy” and “unworkable.”

Two weeks after the entire staff quit, the business reopened with new workers — but the owners claim that the damage was done.

“Gorilla Coffee has sustained a loss of its reputation and a decline in its business attributable to the defamatory statements published by the New York Times,” the court documents say. “[The letter] was furnished by [former employees] with express and implied malice and with design and intent to injure Gorilla Coffee in its good name and reputation.

Gorilla Coffee co-owner Darleen Scherer, seen in happier times, says the New York Times has ruined her life.

“Prior to the … defamatory publication, Gorilla Coffee, Scherer and McLaughlin had built up among the general public … a certain goodwill as merchants … and possessed a reputation for fair dealing, courtesy and accommodation,” the court documents continue.

The two-week-long saga began last April when the all the employees at the café on Fifth Avenue on Park Place abruptly quit and detailed their beef with Scherer and McLaughlin in the open letter printed by the Times and The Brooklyn Paper, which has not been sued.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times, Diane McNulty, said, “We have not been served with the complaint. If we are served, we plan to defend the case vigorously.”

McLaughlin and Scherer could not be reached, but their lawyer, Stephen Finkelstein, said that “a fair amount have said they’re not going to patronize” the shop since the Times article came out. It is unclear how much business, if any, has been lost to the media coverage of the mass walkout.

The lawsuit was first reported by the blog, F—ed in Park Slope.

Colleen Ford was one of the new servers at Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, which closed abruptly after the entire staff walked out in April.
Photo by Bess Adler