SHERIDAN — The Living Room Coffee Shop off of Brundage Street is closing after its Halloween party tonight to allow for restructuring of the business. Owner Maureen “Mo” Hickey made the announcement Monday that today will be the Living Room’s last day — for a while.
While the establishment has been slowly gaining momentum since its opening June 17, Hickey said revenues haven’t been where they need to be.
“Right now, it’s costing me more money to keep it open that if it were closed,” Hickey said, adding that one of the biggest contributing factors to the slower-than-anticipated business start is its location, which can presently only be accessed via an alleyway.
Hickey said the problem wasn’t necessarily getting visitors, but rather getting those customers to spend money. With space for live performers and its eclectic collection of books and board games, The Living Room drew a steady crowd of visitors that would stay for hours, but spend very little money on coffee and food.
Hickey said she initially opened the venue in response to what she perceives as a dire need in the community — a late-night social place for people of all ages that’s free of drugs and alcohol. Hickey is also the owner of Cloud Peak Initiatives, Inc., and said it was her experiences in social work that highlighted need for a more diverse nightlife in Sheridan.
She said people need more places to go that keep them out of trouble.
“We can see it in our poverty rates, our (minors In possession), the high school dropout rate,” Hickey said. “In running a mental health center, I’ve seen a lot of community need. We’re filling a huge niche, but we need funding and support.”
“The population being served doesn’t have the money to sustain it,” Hickey said. “But, they’re dying for a place to stay. I just can’t foot the bill anymore.”
Hickey said she’s hoping to gain nonprofit status for the establishment and re-open, when possible, as a community center.
“The writing is on the wall that that’s what this was meant to be,” she said, adding that various interest groups regularly meet at the location, and with the facility’s internet access and study-conducive environment, she hopes to set up an after school program or tutoring opportunities.
Manager Krista Kelley said The Living Room needs to make approximately $1200 per day, but lately, has only pulled in about $700. She said that’s actually not too bad for a place that’s been off the ground for less than six months.
Kelley said she is disappointed about the closure, as she doesn’t think the business has been given a fair shot. She said it takes at least a year or more for a restaurant to get on its feet, and The Living Room hasn’t had time to stabilize.
“I don’t think (Hickey) had a realistic expectation, and that’s what we’ve been battling,” Kelley said, adding that in her years of experience in hospitality, she’s seen that seasonal booms and busts are par for the course, and she feels the business could stick out the slow season.
“We’ve volunteered a lot of free time and personal hours to get this place up and running, and it was kind of a slap in the face, to be honest with you,” Kelley said.
Kitchen Manager and Pastry Chef April Roth agreed the news of the closing was a surprise.
“I still don’t totally understand what’s going on, and I’m not really happy about it,” she said.
Kelley and Roth have indicated they’re exploring the idea of opening a restaurant independent of The Living Room.
Hickey said the sudden cutoff was all about business.
“I know I’m disappointing a lot of people, but they’re not paying the bills,” Hickey said, adding she has exhausted her personal finances in the endeavor. “I don’t know what else to say. I’m not going to bounce checks around town.”
Kelley said she plans to have information posted on the door of the establishment for people who have gift certificates that were not redeemed by the business’s closing date.