Dark Hall Coffee Faces Scrutiny After Standing Up for Community Needs

Emily Spetrino, one of the owners of The Coronado and Dark Hall Coffee, spoke at a city hall meeting against increased budgeting toward police. Afterward, she became the target of Blue Lives Matter groups and other political activists.


At a Phoenix City Council community budget hearing in April, business owner Emily Spetrino of The Coronado and the soon-to-be-opened Dark Hall Coffee was asked by a colleague to speak about her position as a business owner in the city and the allocation of resources to the community. Within days, a Blue Lives Matter website picked up the story, calling Emily’s speech an “anti-cop rant,” and detailing Emily’s personal activity on social media. Now, as Dark Hall prepares for a grand opening event on Friday, May 4, to benefit a family with a child suffering from a rare form of cancer, Emily and her staff are facing boycotts from a right-wing group in the city called The Patriot Movement AZ.

Dark Hall will be having a grand opening party with all profits from the day going to a local family coping with cancer.

“Nothing I said was that controversial,” Emily explained in a phone call to Barista Magazine. “We’ve definitely done way more radical things and have been involved in grassroots campaigning and organizing beyond this,” she notes, citing their commitment to causes like Black Lives Matter and The Puente Movement. Emily was asked to appear at the City Council meeting on behalf of other business owners, sharing that, “It’s hard to have a business in Phoenix when we’re constantly embarrassing ourselves and overfunding the police.” Phoenix currently spends around $550 million of its city budget on the police, the highest city expenditure in Phoenix. The fire department comes in second at $300 million, and parks and recreation come in third at less than $100 million.

Chart provided by Emily Spetrino.

Ben Laughlin, manager for Dark Hall, says that Emily made a plea for community services, not an anti-cop rant. “What Emily actually advocated for was for money to be reallocated into rec centers, bike lanes, and city programs for kids. That’s not anti-cop—that’s pro-people that live here,” Ben says. And if you don’t believe them, you can watch Emily’s speech to the City Council. “It’s all on YouTube,” Emily shares. [Note: You can find Emily’s speech at 1:08:00]

Dark Hall Coffee is one of two businesses that Emily Spetrino owns; Emily has hosted a number of events and fundrasiers for local and national organizations like Puente and Black Lives Matter. Photo by Ash Ponders.

Since her speech, Emily has been the subject of intense internet scrutiny and the stores have been targeted—folks have called and emailed the stores, and personal details about Emily, such as where she and her family members live, have been published online. While Emily is used to some level of controversy, this issue has escalated beyond what she has experienced in the past. “This isn’t unusual, but this is the first time it’s gotten really personal,” she says.

Emily, left, with manager Ben Laughin, outside of Dark Hall Coffee. Protesters from The Patriot Movement AZ have been associated with harassing city workers, defacing mosques, and yelling at students during the March For Our Lives protest. Photo by Ash Ponders.

However intense the attention and threats have become, Emily is concerned mostly about her Friday fundraiser and ensuring that the people who attend aren’t harmed by the protesters from The Patriot Movement. “The real issue is that our grand opening is a fundraiser for our friend’s daughter who has been dealing with cancer. We’re giving 100 percent of our proceeds to her,” she shares. On their Facebook page, The Patriot Movement states, “We will be peacefully protesting while respecting their right to do business. No blocking door, harassing customers, etc. …” However, the group has been accused of harassing state legislature staff members and telling them to “get out of my country” and yelling at students during a March for Our Lives protest, and many have asked governor Doug Ducey to denounce the group.

“I don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out,” Ben says of the group protesting. “They’re not going to be physical, but they’re going to be disruptive.” The group has since changed the date of their protest to Saturday.

Although there have been folks protesting, Emily and Ben both say that the overwhelming majority of the community has been supportive. Photo by Ash Ponders.

However vocal the organizers of The Patriot Movement have been, this ordeal has also displayed how supportive members of the Phoenix community can be. “The last couple of years we’ve done a lot of fundraising, thrown down for lots of other organizations, and we’ve really had the community’s back,” says Ben. “And in this moment it became really clear that the community had our back.”

If you’re in Phoenix, consider showing your support for Dark Hall, which is a goth-themed vegan café (the Coronado is a vegetarian/vegan eatery), or consider donating to the family they’re supporting in their fundraiser.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at ashley@baristamagazine.com.