“Packed all the time,” but JP’s Java still closes

Can an emphasis on coffee keep a nice place afloat? JP’s had good coffee, a patio, and both a big, bright main space and a cozy back room. Still, says its owner, the  average tab was about 4 bucks, with patrons occupying their tables for hours. I was one of those people. Though I usually had a light meal plus coffee, and spent closer to $10 on my visits, I too would sit at my table for three to four hours. I wrote a great deal of Cactus Burning there, while occasionally visiting with friends. Still, guests could usually find an empty chair. In my many visits to JP's, I never walked out for want of a seat, nor observed anyone doing so.

So, if table squatting didn’t shut down JP’s, what did? While Austin still has a lot of coffeehouses, I’ve seen many close over the years. Starbucks, by contrast, seems to expand constantly. Have costs risen so high that a neighborhood coffee place can’t make an adequate profit? Must you have the scale of a Starbucks to survive in the cafe business?

Owner JP Hogan, and a few Austin commentators, offer some thoughts here.