Turn Cafe Roma into a Co-Op


  1. Buy the building
  2. Take over the lease
  3. Starting a Co-op/Potential Partners
  4. Get the Davis Food Co-op to take over the lease
    1. Here's what needs to happen
      1. What's the status on the lease
      2. Poke the DFC Board
      3. Does this make sense financially?
      4. Fundraising
  5. Get local businesses to partner in project
  6. Offers of help or funds

This page was made to discuss the future of the late Cafe Roma, and the community's interest in maintaining the coffee shop while converting it into a cooperative venture. Though Roma has since become 3rd & U Cafe, this page is maintained for historical reasons, and demonstrates one of the many ways the wiki can/has been used not only to document Davis, but to create a dialog with the purpose of shaping and benefiting the Davis community as a whole.

Cafe Roma is closing at the end of February. If we get a bunch of people together to pool their money together we can start an organization to take over the lease.

The rent will be about $6,000 a month, but considering the location - that is reasonable. If we fix up the kitchen we could sell a lot more food items than it currently does. And if we get a beer/wine license we'll be golden.

A Facebook group entitled [WWW]Let's turn Cafe Roma into a Co-Op Coffee Shop/Deli/Pub has been started to get a group together to pool money into taking over Cafe Roma and turning it into a Cooperative business venture.

Let's get going on this.

Another idea — start a non-profit to run Roma. Less of a problem with "donations", which can be made into an endowment. No shares to speak of so no worries about tracking owners, etc.

Here are some approaches:

Buy the building


Buying the building would probably be expensive, as I don't believe that you could buy just the Cafe and not the apartments above it. This would probably push the price into the millions.

Take over the lease


The lease is currently $4,000+ and is going up. If we'd like to start a Co-Op, there's a pantsload of paperwork to be done, not to mention a sizable investment. I don't know how big this investment needs to be. There are organizations to help start co-ops, but I don't know what they are.

Note: The landlord may not care about who the tenant is; s/he may just want to maximize rent. Unless the owner is "sympathetic" (ie, will offer subsidized rent), Roma may be better off moving to a place that is either subsidized or cheaper at market rates. (With Roma's reputation, you could move into someone's garage...) There's no reason to put out a lot of energy if rent is going to suck out our espresso-flavored precious bodily fluids.

Starting a Co-op/Potential Partners

As of now many businesses are interested in taking this over, but we need to keep the vibe alive.

A prominent manager at the CoHo has expressed interest in getting involved, as well as members of the ASUCD Gov't. We can do this.

Perhaps we should plan a fundraising event for Feb 24th.

We'd want to be a California Cooperative Corporation, which seems to be in the state code [WWW]here and [WWW]here. Someone at the Davis Food Co-op said that to be a CCC, each member can own no more than $300 in shares, though the price for an individual share can be anything from $1 to $300. The Davis Food Co-op [WWW]Articles of Incorporation could provide a useful example. Also [WWW]How to start a cooperative from the National Cooperative Business Association.

This means we cannot have a member who makes an "investment" through shares beyond $300. Essentially, the voting power and shares are capped to ensure that an individual with a large investment cannot have a greater say that any other member.

Get the Davis Food Co-op to take over the lease

While co-operative businesses are a great idea, and can definitely work—the [wikipedia]Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley is a particularly delicious example—Roma will be closing at the end of February, and the landlord is likely to be eager to find a new tenant if (s)he hasn't already done so. Here are some reasons why Davis Food Co-Op taking over the lease is a is a good idea:

The way I Imagine this working is that the coffee shop would become a DFC enterprise, the same DFC membership benefits and structure would apply (5% discount, more for volunteer food service and cleaning people).

Here's what needs to happen

I'm really not here this weekend, I'm in Chico now (2007-2-16) and I'm moving farther away from civilization (wifi) tomorrow. A small group of dedicated people need to start meeting on this ASAP. I'm eager to work on this, but I think people need to get things moving before I get back, even if it's not this particular plan. —ArlenAbraham

What's the status on the lease

First and foremost, we need to find out what's up with the lease. Has the landlord found a new tenant? Is the lease price fixed? If it's open to bids, what kind of bid would we need to make to get the lease?

Poke the DFC Board

Informally ask if DFC would be at all interested in this, if there's no way in hell, then there's no reason to waste our time.

Does this make sense financially?

I don't know jack about GAP or how to run a business. Yes, we can sit down with DFC and work on these numbers, but we need to have at least some idea of what we're talking about before we go to the board.


Cafe Roma is dirty. DFC isn't going to want to sink a couple grand into revamping the bathrooms and food service areas. The building could use more outlets, new chairs, repaired tables, etc. To make the offer more appealing, we could pool our financial resources to help with the renovation.

Get local businesses to partner in project

It is rumored that the owners of Ali Baba, Navin's Copy Shop and Off-Campus Books are each interested in taking over and keeping the place largely the same, with improvements. Perhaps a partnership between students, townies, and interested local businesses could preserve the community importance of Roma.

Offers of help or funds

Can you pledge some time, skills, or money to this initiative? Help us gauge community interest and resources by letting us know what you have to offer.


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This idea came about on St. Valentines day, after ASUCD senator Andrew Peake and Brent Laabs heard of the future fate of the Cafe Roma, totally awesome idea in my opinion. ~D

2007-02-16 01:07:45   We need to set a target initial investment amount in order to know what the fundraiser goal is. —PaulAmnuaypayoat

2007-02-16 01:15:21   $6,000 for rent + $1,000 for supplies and utilities, per month (I'm guessing here) means that you'd need to sell around 19 drinks an hour on average to break even, with two $8/hour workers factored in. If the workers weren't paid then it'd be around 11 drinks an hour. —PhilipNeustrom

2007-02-16 01:31:16   As mentioned on the facebook group, selling shares may be a lucrative way to go as well. Possibly even a combination of fundraising and shares? I believe the DFC has a "membership" option correct? Perhaps we should have the initial share buyers gain the perks of "membership" in for a year while giving donators, who contribute a little less, perks in the first few months of operation or something. This way we get people willing to formally help fund the estabilishment, while those who aren't willing to make a major financial investment (The Facebook group said $72 a share with 250 people for the rent? I am sure I can't pay that much with my regular budget) will be allowed to make a smaller one at their leisure to help with the starting costs. —ChiakiHirai

2007-02-16 02:01:19   As I said in the facebook group, I'm down to make this into a coop, and eager to help. We need to find a time when all serious members can meet up and figure out what the next steps should be. —JuliaRoseFurman

I'll be honest...I think the co-op thing is a terrible idea. Given the time constraints we have, I just don't see that happening. What seems more likely is finding someone who's sympathetic to our needs as students/townspeople to take over the business...also someone who's competent and who actually takes the business seriously and makes employees actually be decent at the whole "customer service" thing. Roma in its current state as a culture hub and concept is great, but considering that most of the time they refuse to sell you food and coffee service is slow and disgruntled, I'd say that it needed change even if it wasn't going under.

2007-02-16 08:43:19   I don't live in Davis anymore, but I think I have a paypal, I'll send you money. Not that much money, I get paid in pesos. —JoshuaHeller

2007-02-16 10:34:25   I'm all for it. I'm totally willing to help fundraise and/or to buy a share. What can I do? —NoraCary

It would be a great idea to do a volunteer co-op cafe instead of a paid one.

"I think that buying shares (between $100-and $1000) with the expecation of a return on the investment can raise enough capital in a week. I do think there will be some changes in managment style, and that always leads to changes in service. The best part of this being a co-op is that it will be much more responsive to consumers. I am personally willing to invest $1000 to make the initial purchase of the lease next week. My goal is $30,000. Rob has had the idea of having a fundraiser to suplement that effort. I am still working out the detials on accounts and such to get this ball rolling."

2007-02-16 12:01:31   I am all for it, espically actually buying some shares. —BenjaminRosenstein

2007-02-16 19:18:32   rumor has it the owner of Ali Baba, as well as the folks who own both Navin's Copy Shop and Off-Campus Books, are each interested in taking over and keeping the place largely the same, but putting more money into it and cleaning things up —DanielBerliner

2007-02-16 21:07:13   Perhaps if creating an entirely new co-op sounds too complicated, we could help set up a small partnership of Ali Baba, Navin's, Off-Campus Books, and students, residents, and etc. Make it a very community oriented cafe, run by the community, as in the past style and feel. —ChiakiHirai

2007-02-17 00:53:16   I would buy some shares for sure! —StevenDaubert

2007-02-17 00:53:16   there has been talk among the enteraintment council about this property as well... perhaps become a reliable night social venue as well...?

2007-02-17 03:25:54   sorry arlen but the DFC absolutely cannot take on something like that right now. the remodel is #1 priority right now and already involves a great deal of debt. we just had to say no to a bunch of west davis folks asking the co-op to start a 2nd store at the former site of food faire/rays. you're welcome to bring it up to the general manager or others on the board, but i can guess what the response will be. i'd like to think it would be a possibility if not for the remodel upcoming. the DFC can still be a good resource though for know-how and potentially even a grant or something, and many individuals involved with the DFC would likely be eager to support a co-op coffeeshop. but in the context of the current dfc board, the remodel, and what just went down with west davis, it's just in no way at all going to happen for them to take over the lease. —DanielBerliner

2007-02-17 07:58:10   we don't have time for a cali co op, or much of anything except a collective. I can put a couple hundred up, and build tables. —PopeChristof

2007-02-17 10:21:22   I can put down 100 bucks, lots of time, and help with painting, bleaching, building, and general cleaning of the place. I've got bleach, paintbrushes and other random things we could use that would cut out a small fraction of the revamping costs. —JuliaRoseFurman

Shouldn't we start talking to the owner of the lease ASAP to see if we can get it, we don't want this chance to pass us by. ~Users/DavePoole Talked to the property management company last week; they are going to get back to me with exact numbers.-andrew

2007-02-17 14:35:19   we don't have time for a cali co op, or much of anything except a collective. I can put a couple hundred up, and build tables. —PopeChristof

2007-02-17 14:40:31   So, what's the status of a meeting this weekend? Is there a time/place yet? —JuliaRoseFurman

Tommorow at one? At campus roma (seems appropriate)...does that work for everyone?-Andrew
works for me -JuliaRose
I will be there ~ Dave
Sounds good. I should come, since I did a lot of research within ASUCD on this, which has some positives and some negatives for the project.

2007-02-19 16:08:08   I've been hanging out at roma almost everyday for 3 years. I hope that the changes you all make dont negatively effect Roma's ability to be a community gathering place. There is no other place in town where people from all walks of life are welcome and are able to comfortably intermingle and socialize. It is a really rare thing that can easily be ruined. —SolomonBothwell

2007-02-20 11:46:02   I can put in some dough and provide some publicity and work there at night and put up my first born child (if it's a girl). —JoshFernandez

2007-02-20 12:43:05   Is there some kind of fund-raising effort going on that needs music? I play at Cafe Roma occasionally and would love to get involved. Let me know what I can do. keng@ucdavis.eduKennyEng

2007-02-20 16:41:38   Why doesn't somebody who really cares about this (and who has an interest in owning it and running it for an indefinitely long period of time) put together a complete business plan, and then look for investors who can put up large amounts of money on the expectation that you'll be profitable and pay them back? —KenBloom

The business name "Cafe Amor" has been registered for this and a paypal account to accept [WWW]donations has been setup as well, if this plan falls through we will fully reimburse any donations sans fees which paypal takes (so checks for Cafe Amor would probably be a better way to help), in addition, we are working to set up a pledge system like CalPIRG has. ~DavePoole

2007-02-23 00:42:42   I'm rather skeptical on the "non-profit" coffee house. It's a genuine idea, yes, but we need investors, and I'm uneasy about the idea that people will be simply throwing money at the cafe without an actual return. Smaller donations may not be so much, but larger investments from local businesses or people who are willing to put down money for shares may become discouraged in this event.

Also, I really want some realistic figures on how much we need to start this all up. The CalPIRG idea sounds good, but people aren't going to willingly donate money without knowing how much in total we'll need, and how much they each should contribute. Transparency will be a very good factor to have for those that are donating.—ChiakiHirai

2007-02-23 09:31:26   This pretty much isn't going to happen in the next five days or so. If people are genuinely interested in starting a co-op coffee shop in davis, I think it's a great idea and you should join the email list <amor DASH cafe AT googlegroups DOT com>. As long as we have this large community focused around roma, we could have a fundraiser show for some worthy cause in the community. —ArlenAbraham

2007-02-23 22:47:30   The Whole Earth Center in Princeton, NJ is a natural/organic grocery store run by a nonprofit. They have no website, but you can call their manager, Fran McManus at 609-924-7377. —JoRo

"2007-02-28" I agree with ChiakiHirai that a "non-profit" coffee house, or even a coffee house operated by a non-profit is an idea to treat with skepticism; food co-ops operated under the auspices of non-profit corporations often have difficulties with capital and not having a consumer membership structure. I think that the idea of a worker cooperative has a lot more potential for a future "Café Amor." For a little bit about worker co-ops, see [WWW]about varieties of co-ops and [WWW]U.S. worker co-opsDougWalter

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