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West Village Coffee Shop Owner Says Vagrants Are Attacking His Customers

By Andrea Swalec | February 28, 2013 11:23am | Updated on February 28, 2013 11:58am
 The Eighth Avenue location of Think Coffee is plagued with aggressive vagrants, the manager said Feb. 27, 2013.
The Eighth Avenue location of Think Coffee is plagued with aggressive vagrants, the manager said Feb. 27, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

WEST VILLAGE — Large caramel latte with a side of beatdown?

Management of the popular Think Coffee location on Eighth Avenue, near 14th Street, say the shop is plagued with aggressive homeless people who attack customers and each other, throwing chairs and tables inside the hip latte joint.

General manager Matt Fury said he and his staff regularly make 911 calls about violent vagrants in the 73 Eighth Ave. shop, but police haven't been able to solve the problem and the aggressors keep returning.

"The homeless people themselves and customers have left in ambulances," Fury said at a community meeting Wednesday night. "We have literally called [911] a dozen times over the course of 24 hours."

Sixth Precinct police said they regularly issue summonses at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue for aggressive panhandling, alcohol consumption and public urination.

"We've been hitting them pretty hard," the precinct's commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Brandon del Pozo said.

He told Fury police could potentially get trespass affidavits against regular troublemakers so they would be banned from entering Think.

The most recent attack at the West Village Think location occurred Tuesday night around 10 p.m., when a man who appeared homeless shoved a female manager when she attempted to stop him from making a beeline to the shop's restroom.

"[The manager] was terrified," Fury said.

On Monday, a group of seemingly drunk men entered the shop and sat in the rear seating area, Fury said. An employee heard a loud crash, walked to the back of the shop and found a man sitting in a chair with a bleeding head injury, moving in and out of consciousness.

Since the Think location opened in Nov. 2011, vagrants have also thrown tables and chairs, Fury said.

The incidents often begin when customers tell store management someone is bothering them for money or sleeping next to them.

"When [employees] go to the back, the person will either verbally or physically attack the customer who complained," said Fury, who believes homeless people spend time in the area because of nearby homeless services.

The West Village Think location is shortening its hours to help employees feel safer. Starting Monday, the shop will close every day at 10 p.m., instead of at 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and at midnight Saturday and Sunday.