City Desk

Scoop On Murky Auction!

The assets will be sold. That's what the letter in the window explained–either in one big lot for which the sealed bidding begins at $10,000, or–if the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue doesn't receive a good number of offers for the whole shebang by Friday– in pieces.

At 10:30 this morning, Johnathan Domingues, smartly dressed in business casual and donning a pair of brown sunglasses, was the first potential bidder to show up. The D.C. tax office hadn't arrived yet, so he peered through the cafe's picture window, eying the remains of what was once Murky Coffee.

"I hear they're selling everything," he says, "even the chandeliers".

Asked if he's scoping out Murky, a popular Capitol Hill coffee shop that was shut down in Febuary for back sales taxes to the amount of $427,395, in order to open his own cafe, Domingues says no, he's not very interested in the equipment he'll find inside, he's interested in the location.

Though he won't say what sort of business he would open up on 660 Pennsylvania Ave SE, he does say that it definitely wouldn't be a restaurant. "There are too many around here already," he explains.

Working to bring a new product called the Club Caddy to fruition, Domingues may be just the kind of D.C. entrepreneur the Tax Office would hope to attract to the auction. When two guys from the government office materialize, around 10:35, they greet him and hurriedly unlock the door.

Inside, the names and prices for Murky's "in house only" espressos, and various other hot and cold drinks, are still on the chalkboard, written in neat loops of script. A grimy calculator and a box of unopened coffee stirrers sit on the tile bar. In the corner of the storefront, a now-empty "Naked Juice" cooler is plugged in and whirring. Wooden chairs and marbletop tables camp out in the center of the room.

The two guys from the tax office busy themselves, taking out unopened boxes of expensive looking Baratza coffee grinders from a cupboard and displaying them on a shelf. Domingues quietly explores the place– checking to see where the gray door in the back leads to. A few other potential bidders trickle in.

In a burst, the woman in charge of the auction enters the shop and starts giving her sales pitch. Talking loud enough to make everyone present stop in their tracks, she breaks it down, pointing out that there are 48 bottles of unopened flavored coffee syrup, 52 bags of unopened coffee (it keeps up to a year, evidently); even the counter is available. The only catch is everything has to be out of the building by the 21st of April to get ready for the storefront's new renters, most likely,) and the bidder has to haul it.

"Everything is for sale" the auctioneer emphasizes, "it all needs to go. "

And there the account of this intrepid coffee reporter must end. I was politely kicked out of the event by the woman in charge. The one whose name I failed to nail down before getting ejected.–Rend Smith

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