White House Coffee Is a Mess


The New York Times has an interesting story today on the Caribou Cafe, which is just across the street from the West Wing and Eisenhower Executive Office Building where most White House staffers worked. The gist is that they are meeting lobbyists at the cafe rather than having them come through the White House gates, where they would then have to be listed:

WASHINGTON — There are no Secret Service agents posted next to the barista and no presidential seal on the ceiling, but the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House has become a favorite meeting spot to conduct Obama administration business.

I confess that I met many people myself at the Caribou during my years in the West Wing. But not lobbyists, and not because I didn’t want them listed on White House logs. Mostly because despite the amenities of the White House, the actual Mess (as opposed to a takeout window) was open only for breakfast and lunch and “The People’s Mess” (our affectionate name for the lesser cafe in the EEOB) closed as early as 3 p.m. despite a captive coffee-thirsty population of hundreds. That means for loads staffers working late hours, Caribou was one of the few places for enjoying a good coffee at a clean table with good air conditioning.

Manifestly the lesson here is that when you criminalize coffee with lobbyists, coffee drinking becomes criminal.

There are 5 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Contributor

    I will hear no complaints from you, Mr, McGurn. During the Reagan years, we didn’t have Caribou Cafe–or Starbucks, or Peet’s, or a decent coffee shop of any kind. After the mess closed, we had to resort to a coin-operated machine in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building. You put in your quarters and took your chances: Watery coffee, syrupy hot chocolate, or, if the machine was having a bad day, a mixture of both.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Editor

    Bill, imagine what an enterprising person might overhear, at that Caribou Coffee. Imagine what that person might overhear, especially with a couple of high-end directional listening devices.

    This is either the first act to a suspense film, or a very lucrative business opportunity.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Contributor

    With all due respect to the United States Navy, which runs the Mess, and the government workers who run the EEOB cafe, I was always a supporter of privatizing the operations. Only the government can have that many captive customers — people who get hungry when they work late hours — and either have no way to serve them or have a way that loses money.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Contributor

    “A lot of them like lattes,” said Andre Williams, the store manager. Bill, you may have patronized Caribou, but I bet you didn’t order lattes!

    My prediction? The administration will react to this story by nationalizing Caribou, and poor Andre will end up as a GS-9.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Contributor

    Adam, Absolutely right. When I was in Hong Kong the first coffee shop opened up around the corner from where I lived. Everyone was excited — we had had no coffee — and it was run by two Chinese gals. Every day I ordered the same thing. And I learned my nickname in Chinese: Black Coffee Man.

    And that was always my beverage of choice at Caribou!

    • #5
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