Brews news: Five area coffee shops have updates to share
  • Buds & Beans to open soon in old Wine.Bar location
  • Coffee cocktails in the One Central Building
  • Villa Myriam's second location is delayed
  • Espresso Fino is still closed but not gone
  • Thundercloud Café ends Raynolds run Friday
Two shops take on an unusual formula: coffee and alcohol under one roof (sometimes in one glass)
Chakra Coffee's "creamsicle coffee cocktail" features cold brew, Baileys, orange bitters, a hint of vanilla, and orange zest.

Finding coffee in the same venue with beer, wine, and spirits is not as easy as you might think. Locally, at least, it barely counts as a trend, but if two new establishments have anything to say about it, it will soon catch fire.

Buds & Beans Coffee and Beer Lounge plans to open later this month at Second and Gold, offering its namesake beverages and a sit-down meal menu. 

Chakra Coffee, meanwhile, opened late last year and serves coffee drinks as well as cocktails that contain coffee, plus breakfast items from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It shares the premises with partner operation Canvas Artistry, a gallery, bar, and restaurant located at the One Central Building (First and Central). 

While filling one spot with coffee drinkers in the morning and alcohol drinkers after noon is common in Europe and - if nothing else - seems like an efficient use of space, the results of two other recent local attempts have been mixed (DAN, 04/09/20). Buds & Beans and Chakra, however, are taking differing approaches in their attempts to create bustling public spaces that also feel like home.

Buds & Beans
Buds & Beans aims to serve coffee and beer "with no compromise in quality," general manager Taj McCellon said, from as early as 6 a.m. to as late as midnight. 

Sweet and savory cooking with some new Mexican dishes and occasional specials will be on the menu, she said. Red and green chile soups will be available as well.

McCellon said she and owner Jonathan Joiner want to run "a place to come home to and relax and not to have to clean up the mess," but they also plan on hosting lots of events, from live music and comedy to game nights to drag brunches.

"Buds" in the Buds & Beans name refers both to buddies and to the budding of new hopes and dreams.

A potential challenge for a hybrid operation is finding staff who can speak the languages of both coffee and beer. McCellon said she's confident that the Buds & Beans approach to employment will attract workers who are teachable or coachable, but she is sad that the law prevents them from hiring servers under age 21.

"We intend to pay our staff well and treat them well," she said. 

Buds & Beans has been tentatively awarded a $35,000 Downtown revitalization grant from the city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency, money from the American Rescue Plan Act that the city is channeling into small businesses developing vacant storefronts. McCellon said the grant would allow them to do things like offer paid time off to all employees from the get-go, not down the road as they originally planned.

McCellon and Joiner have been working long hours in recent weeks renovating their new space, which has been vacant for two years and was in the past home to ArtBar and later Wine.Dive. Supply chain issues have been no problem, but labor shortages at construction firms doing the renovations have slowed progress, McCellon said. 

McCellon is bullish about opening a new venture despite the pandemic and an uncertain time for the Downtown core. She said she and Joiner want to "reduce the isolation that the pandemic started and that many of us are starting to break through and step out of."

"We're hoping to establish a stable business presence that will encourage others," she said. "I think people are ready."

Chakra Coffee
Delivering your caffeine and alcohol in one well-crafted cocktail is Chakra Coffee's mission, along with serving regular coffee drinks, teas, and quick breakfast offerings like burritos and pastries.

Luck of the Irish Coffee, a riff on the classic drink that includes orange zest, and a Luini, made with amaretto, cream, and demerara syrup, are two of the cocktail offerings, manager Cienna Chavez said.

Having the word "chakra" in the name refers to the shop's aim of "creating a cup that's going to change your mood and the entire day and also serve your body in the way you hope a cup of coffee would," Chavez said. "We offer a lot of coffees that have something that's herbal and that's going to help you a little bit with your day."

Chakra Coffee operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily in its own section of Canvas Artistry. Its area features garage-size doors opening onto a patio where Chavez said she'd like to see outdoor yoga sessions. Poetry reading and music are also on the to-do list.

Canvas Artistry/Chakra Coffee used to be located in Nob Hill until the pandemic forced a shutdown. They moved to their new location late last November, though between COVID and winter weather, business has been slower than anticipated so far.

"It's a gamble, but I'm excited. I'm super honored to be on Route 66," Chavez said.

"When you're told that you can't do something, you want to do it."

— By David Lee

Villa Myriam shelves Downtown expansion plans, citing COVID
Due to the pandemic, Villa Myriam Coffee has indefinitely postponed its plan to open a second location - to be called The Post - at Copper and Third in the Plaza Galleria, general manager Tim Torres told DAN. Villa Myriam operates the Roastery coffee shop on Commercial and Roma, just east of the railroad tracks, and also roasts and wholesales coffee beans.
Location, location, location
Espresso Fino: No rush to reopen
Nearly two years after the first COVID lockdown, basically every Greater Downtown coffee shop has either reopened (if they ever closed in the first place) or called it quits. But Espresso Fino, a shop on Gold that opened in 2013 and subsequently attracted something of a cult following, remains in limbo: It's not open, but it's not permanently closed either.

"I think the COVID atmosphere is a particular contradiction to my style of running a business," owner Greg Flores told DAN. "A significant element of the charm of my business was the small intimate Euro-ish space, which is not conducive to 'stay the hell away from me' social distancing."

(Another part of the charm was likely Flores himself: Espresso Fino is a one-man operation, so customers got to know him more than they would a rotating cast of baristas.)

For now, Flores is spending time in Massachusetts, contemplating a return.

"I have no intention of staying here but the Downtown mess along with COVID are not making reopening a rush for me," he said. "I'll emphasize though that I love New Mexico and am not willing to relinquish it as my home. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends/customers."
Thundercloud Café to close after two-year run in Raynolds
Owner James Ruiz, pictured last summer at a walk-up window that - somewhat by accident - came in very handy during the pandemic (DAN, 6/8/21).
Thundercloud Café, which opened at Silver and Eighth in the calm-before-the-storm that was early 2020, is set to close Friday.

"It has been a great pleasure running a coffee shop Downtown. I met a lot of great people and I am especially grateful to my regular customers for their support," Ruiz said. "Unfortunately, I am not able to expand the business as I had hoped and I cannot afford to keep it running this way."

A wholesale burrito company called The Phat Beaner is slated to take over the space in the Sterling Downtown building, Ruiz said, likely just a matter of days after Thundercloud Café closes.

Representatives of the new operation didn't return messages seeking further details.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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