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Coffee Shop Criticized After Ejecting Local Man from Outdoor Benches

By Allegra Hobbs | April 11, 2016 5:03pm
 The Bean is a coffee shop chain with several locations in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The Bean is a coffee shop chain with several locations in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
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Nina Mandell/DNAinfo

EAST VILLAGE — The Bean coffee shop on Second Avenue is under fire after ejecting a 68-year-old community member with a respiratory illness from its curbside benches in an effort to keep the space clear for paying customers.

Michael David Arian, who has lived in the East Village for more than four decades, was passing through on his way to work at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club on Fourth Street when he stopped to rest due to breathing difficulties — but he was asked to leave by an employee when he refused to immediately purchase something from the shop, he said.

“I don’t think you could fully grasp how annoying and dehumanizing and ageist this whole thing is,” said Arian, who says he has been stopping by the shop on his way to work for roughly five years, and has been hassled in the past for loitering.

Arian told the employee he planned on buying a bagel after catching his breath — when she asked him to buy something immediately, he said no, leading her to insist on his leaving.

But the shop’s manager insists the confrontation was simply the result of a misunderstanding — the employee was doing her job by asking loiterers to vacate the benches for customer use, he said, and did not realize that Arian suffered from a respiratory illness.

“I feel bad about it,” said Ike Escava. “We’re part of the community here — we want to serve the community, and we made a mistake.”

The mishap underscores the difficulties faced by the establishment in trying to strike a balance between being a good neighbor and making room for paying customers, said Escava. The shop’s benches are constantly overrun by loiterers who stake out the space all day, some of them homeless, he said, and the struggle to keep them usable means that sometimes baristas have to ask folks to clear off.

“We have a big challenge because we have a lot of people who sit all day,” he said. “There are a lot of homeless with nowhere else to go — we’re always watching the benches, and we have to watch them or they would have people sleeping on them.”

But Arian and a handful of locals say they do not sympathize with the coffee shop’s plight — Arian himself has refused Escava’s personal attempts to apologize, while community members have taken to the shop’s Facebook page to lambaste the business.

“I will make sure never to visit this place, which treats people with such distaste,” said Marina Celander.