Writer’s strike has unintended effect on LA’s coffee shops

I’m obviously not going to say much about the Writers Guild strike since, as you might have heard repeatedly from my station’s newscasts, a good majority of my station’s writing (and some producing) staff belongs to the guild. That’s it! That’s all I’m going to say about that.

However, the strike has brought up one issue that I always wondered about — the phenomenon of writers who work at coffee shops. The LAT covers the subject and the strike’s effect nicely.

Whatever practical or psychological reasons have kept writers out of public work spaces this week, it does not bode well for places like the Office, as well as less official scribe sanctuaries like Santa Monica’s 18th Street Coffee House and Silver Lake’s the Coffee Table.For the Office, whose income is generated solely by people who need a place to write, the stakes are particularly high. “If the strike keeps up, I could lose my business,” said Office owner Aleks Horvat, over the telephone. “After all, I am a luxury, not a necessity.”

Of the Office’s 80 members, about 60% write for film or TV; 50% of those are Writers Guild of America members. Many are well-known, such as Darren Star (“Sex and the City”) and W. Blake Herron (“The Bourne Identity”). Horvat’s fear is that if writers are unemployed for too long, they may cancel their memberships, which run from $350 to $500 a month, plus a one-time joining fee of between $140 and $200. (Memberships vary from weekdays-only to nights-only to 24/7 access; day passes are also available.)

I never got it. I once worked at the Santa Monica Main Street Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf as a barista, in between an internship at the Arizona Republic and finding a steady news job. Seriously, how do people study, work on their laptop and/or write in the middle of the din of customers on their cell phones, banging and clanging utensils, noise from the street and shouted coffee orders? Plus, I remember those chairs as being not so comfortable. In fact, I remember them as butt-numbing. Why would you sit in an uncomfortable, noisy coffee shop rather than on your own couch at home? I don’t get it.

But, apparently, its a thing. Go figure. It takes the fear of the guild to make the writers abandon our coffee shops.

Although no dramatic change was yet visible at the coffee shop, where about half a dozen screenwriters were staring into laptops, the normally laid-back vibe was slightly more tense. There was talk of the picket lines and of WGA “goons” who might be prowling around, looking to nab scabs.When Steve Waverly, a WGA screenwriter, was asked what he was working on, he said robotically: “I’m working on nothing and I will be picketing.”

Like many writers, Waverly was not entirely certain what kind of writing was permissible during the strike.

One thought on “Writer’s strike has unintended effect on LA’s coffee shops

  1. Karl Dahlquist

    I remember visiting you at the Coffee Bean….haha….that was a long time ago! Funny, I used to always be in Santa Monica going out to dinner or seeing movies or whatever….but now I “Just say No to the 3-1-0”

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