On any given Tuesday morning, Jojo Ty greets regulars at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street — a mix of professors from UC Hastings and construction workers who come to their business, Fluid Coffee Cooperative, to caffeinate. A few customers come by and say they’re devastated to hear Fluid is on its way out of La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, a beloved nonprofit incubator in San Francisco. But the Excelsior-raised coffee entrepreneur says it’s time for their business to move on; at the end of Pride Weekend on Sunday, June 25, the business will close its kiosk at 101 Hyde Street for good. “It would have been better to leave on our own terms,” Ty says. “But it feels right to transition out of the marketplace. Transitions are hard, and it’s sad, but I think it’s what’s best for us. ”
Ty says it’s the right time to leave the marketplace, in part due to what he describes as La Cocina’s push for Fluid to go. As he explains, the business and La Cocina didn’t always see eye to eye. For example, when a uniformed officer ordered coffee at Fluid, the owners chose not to serve the officer, citing concerns over safety around armed police. Someone from another organization in the Tenderloin oversaw the interaction and contacted staff at La Cocina, who then proceeded to ask Ty and his fellow owners about the interaction. After the three parties sat down to discuss the policy from all sides, Ty says the community member chose not to continue the conversation whereas Fluid’s members wanted to get a better sense as to why this was considered inappropriate. Ultimately, Fluid was asked to serve police by La Cocina, though an ACAB (“all cops are bastards”) sticker remains posted to the pastry case stuffed with scones and muffins. Ty pointed to this story as just one of a few instances that became wedges between their business and the nonprofit. “It wasn’t always easy,” Ty says. “It wasn’t bad blood. But our leaving wasn’t on great terms.”
La Cocina provided a statement to Eater saying the nonprofit wishes the cooperative well and encourages folks to support the fundraising campaign. Additionally, the nonprofit says it understood and acknowledged Fluid’s decision not to serve police as an independent business, a decision rooted in their community’s historical experience with law enforcement. “While the Marketplace welcomes all members of our community, including uniformed officers,” the statement reads. “La Cocina did not require Fluid to serve the police.” The nonprofit points out Fluid was never a part of its incubator program, and instead was initially installed as a six-month pop-up that extended for another one-and-a-half years. “Fluid is a wonderful business with a powerful mission, and we are glad that the City of San Francisco and the community are supporting their next steps,” the statement reads. “We are honored to have welcomed Fluid at the Municipal Marketplace. We are committed to furthering our mission in providing La Cocina program participants and graduates opportunities through the Marketplace to formalize and keep growing their businesses.”
Fluid Coffee Cooperative opened inside the marketplace in August 2021, with founders Ty, Santana Tapia, and Shannon Amitin, who were joined shortly thereafter by Sarello Buyco. The cooperative was created to support and amplify transgender and queer voices in coffee. It’s fitting since the Tenderloin is home to the country’s first transgender cultural district. Fluid soon became a standard bearer for queer-owned coffee in the Tenderloin, serving Mother Tongue cold brew and Crumble & Whisk pastries. The group also hosts a Queer Coffee Conference each year, though this year’s event is on pause due to the shop’s departure from its current home. Ty says that since June is the year people seem to “care about our community the most,” he hopes fans will turn out to help fundraise for a new permanent space which, Ty hopes, could be just a few blocks away. “Imagine having trans people own space in the Tenderloin,” Ty says. “That freedom is a part of our community.”
There will be a few ways to wish Fluid a fond farewell before they leave their current location, including open mics, game nights, and even a queer prom on June 9 at the Fairmont. Plus, even though Ty hails from the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, he says the Tenderloin has left a big impression on him and he doesn’t plan on leaving. He says the neighborhood gets a terrible rap, that as COVID and income inequality rack the city, people blame the relatively small area for woes beyond its scope. “I’m from the city,” Ty says. “And I’ve never seen such a strong sense of community. There’s something different about it. People don’t see the other side of it.”
Fluid Coffee Cooperative is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 101 Hyde Street, and will close permanently on Sunday, June 25.
Update: May 16, 2:09 p.m. This article has been updated to include a statement provided by a La Cocina spokesperson.