Downtown Fort Lauderdale's Brown Baggers Need a Place to Squat

By the time the eviction notice appeared on the front door of Cafe Pisa, it was too late. Downtown office ladies with brown bags, paperback novels, and Tupperware had already descended on the shuttered restaurant's outdoor wrought-iron tables.

Ideally situated in the plaza area of the Wachovia Tower building in Fort Lauderdale, the tables provided a quiet, shady lunch spot with a view of a fountain and a respite from the traffic noise on Broward Boulevard.

Let's face it: The brown-bag crowd has few other options in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Across the street at Stranahan Park, office ladies are more apt to encounter a different brand of brown-bagger, the kind who might smell a bit too strongly of Popov at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.

So where's a gal to go? True, the Wachovia building is undergoing renovations, and perhaps it's not the best idea to munch your tuna salad within coughing range of the drills and sawdust. Yet last week, people were still gathering cozily around the tables at Cafe Pisa, either not noticing or blithely ignoring the eviction sign.

This week, the party ended. A no trespassing sign appeared, and by Friday a police officer was posted a few feet from the restaurant. The tables were empty.

It was tough to stifle a sigh of disappointment. Thanks to the New Depression, many cubicle farmers can't afford to be gourmands. They're saving their pennies by not eating out, and damn it, they need a place to sit. Meanwhile, this city is crawling with abandoned, empty storefronts. Would it be so un-American if they commandeered a few of them?

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