With the news this weekend that Lake Worth's Coastars Coffee Bar has shuttered its doors, alternative Palm Beach County has suffered a grievous blow.
A 100% DIY affair, the South "J" Street boite's proprietor-visionaries Chris Palacio and Liz Brach had sought to birth a nest for the new and the weird. That they did.
What made Coastars so different, so special, was its openness to the work of fledgling local artists and musicians. Every few weeks, it was transformed into an art gallery featuring young painters and photographers. It hosted a range of musicians -- from Christian rock to hip-hop -- on a regular basis. Its role as alternative community center was exemplified by Under the Radar, a talent show that incorporated music, art, spoken word, and just about any thing else that moved the spirit.
The singular institution had just passed the one year mark in January. Its arrival the previous winter was seen as the next logical step in South "J" Street's transformation into LIttle Portlandia and clinched Lake Worth's place as South Florida's coolest city.
But Edge City is a hard place to make a buck -- the digerati-indie-New Age community being often short on discretionary income -- and capitalism's piper couldn't be paid. SoFL's summer season slump caught up with it this year.
"It was better than last summer but still not enough to keep up every month," Chris IM'd us. "Rent and electric made staying open almost two years a huge struggle. And coming close to the end of the lease... It was sort of requested we sign it over."
Sign over to whom? Common Ground, a church whose barebones operation in a South "J" storefront is about as close to DIY as any religious establishment can get.
"Our primary purpose is to reflect God's heart to a God starved world," Common Ground's website proclaims. In its secular, bohemian way, Coastars' mission was much the same.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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