City Desk

Can’t Get Enough on Nick Cho?

A discussion thread on reveals D.C.'s much loved and maligned barista Nick Cho isn't done having problems.

The owner of Murky Coffee in Arlington and former owner of the D.C. outpost seized by the city's tax office (a small matter of 40 400 grand in unpaid sales tax) holds another title: chairman of the U.S. Barista Championship (USBC) Committee, a sweet appointment, considering his well-aired problems.

The news of his appointment hasn't sat so well with some in the coffee community. Following the announcement, four USBC committee members resigned their positions. Though it's not clear if all the resignations were related to Cho's ascendance (one resigner claims he stepped down because of the volunteer hours involved) Sarah Allen's certainly was.

On, Allen explains how she'd been a member of the USBC comittee from the start in 2003 and how, "it broke my heart to leave." Then she goes for the jugular: "I can only speak for myself. I left the committee because Nick was appointed chair of the committee. I have emailed with Nick and he asked me to be transparent about this, so there it is. I like Nick as a person, but had concerns about his abilities to be a committee chair. Let's finally get all this shit out in the open, OK?"

For Allen, who edits the publication Barista magazine, part of getting it out in the open was posting a letter—addressed to "whom it may concern" and written by the owner of Coffee Labs Roasters Inc., Michael Love. A section of the letter states:

Does giving Mr. Cho new Chair positions promote sound business practices to the members of the SCAA? When in 3/21/08 Washington post stated "While conceding that he has been irresponsible, Cho chalked up the tax bill to 'poor cash flow management'" In reference to section 3, I ask is it unlawful to not pay ones sales tax?

Reported on City Blog [sic, City Desk] 2/27/08 "It was old sales tax stuff we missed" Cho explained. Does that free him from the responsibility & discussion of his actions? If one breaks a law or rule because of ones, own ignorance does that free them from retribution with in the SCAA & with its members?"

Interestingly enough, the letter's author knows what it's like to break the rules and pay for it. As reported in a New York Times article, Love, in connection with a checkbook he purloined in 1994 and a few parole violations was, in 2006, sentenced to 6 months in a county jail. Love received a lighter-than-typical sentence because by the time he turned himself in, he had reformed his life and become a respectable business owner with loads of cafe customers willing to vouch for him. —Rend Smith

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  • creative toaster

    40? I thought of was 400 grand.

  • Jule Banville

    Thanks, CT. Fixed.

  • Ernest

    The man looks like a first-rate scoundrel he is. Deport the SOB.

  • Douglas Wray

    The real story is how the Specialty Coffee Association of America's board of directors has failed to respond to the requests of its membership that Nick's seat on the board be reevaluated. They have done little to address sentiment that, all fear of reprisal aside, is spreading; is Nick an appropriate leader? Does he represent this industry well?

  • thepenismightier

    $400,000 in sales tax? Assuming a sales tax of 10%, that would mean revenue of at least $4 million. I think one of you folks is fudging figures. "Lying" is such a harsh word.

    My fondest memory of Nick Cho is when he was an intern on the Don & Mike show and told the story of how he got busy with one of his former high school teachers at the beach.. I think there was a parrot or parakeet in the room, and he was 19 at the time.

  • Jason

    Cho is a frightening individual. I'd never buy any coffee from him.

  • Ranwar

    A face only a mother could love....maybe....

  • Mark Prince

    I have requested several times that the Washington City Paper remove the photo used in this article. It is used without permission and violates the CC license this photograph appears under.

    This newspaper does not respect the copyrights of others.

  • Mike DeBonis

    The photo has been removed. I'm sorry no one seems to have received your previous requests and I also apologize that whoever posted the photo seems to have misread the CC license. I hope this goes some way toward proving we are serious about copyright.

  • Mark Prince

    I appreciate the removal. The photo was taken as a "joke" between Nick and myself, and the usage here presented it out of context, and lead to some unfortunate commentary.

    I did send several notices to citydesk@ and mail@ concerning this, before posting publicly.

    Thanks again.