Being strong-armed amid uncertainty

I promise that I was really trying to find something other than Covid-19 to write about this week because I realise I have covered it and events relating to it extensively in this space over the past month or so. However, since last week’s blog, there is now, essentially, a new world order. I live in New York City and since the beginning of the week, the entire state has been on a “total lockdown,” with social distancing and staying home mandates (except for essential workforce, take-out food, shopping for supplies, walking dogs and “getting fresh air”) being the new normal.

Restaurants, including coffeehouses, have been forced to adopt a take-out only policy, but many have opted to close temporarily instead (or close several locations) because the losses would be greater if they remained open. When I went outside late yesterday afternoon for my daily “breath of fresh air” and coffee, most of my local coffeehouses were closed. Most of these had been open as recently as Tuesday and Wednesday. It took some hunting, but I finally found one that was open.

Last week I discussed the many trade shows around the world that have postponed their shows as well as those that were proceeding. By the next day, several shows announced their postponements such as Interpack (now 25 February to 3 March 2021 from 7-13 May, still in Düsseldorf, Germany) and the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) World of Coffee (15-17 October 2020 from 18-20 June, still in Warsaw, Poland).

Although the SCA postponed its World of Coffee, the Re:co Symposium (21-23 April) and the Expo (23-26 April) have not yet been postponed or cancelled. The short answer is that the Oregon Convention Center is strong-arming the SCA and not permitting the organisation to postpone its events. However, with so many members and exhibitors asking why both have not yet been postponed/cancelled, Sustainable Harvest hosted a webinar with the SCA yesterday (19 March) to address the issue.

Speaking for the SCA, Yannis Apostolopoulos, the CEO, reiterated what he addressed in his 18 March letter and video to SCA members, that despite recommendations from the US Center for Disease Control that all mass events (exceeding more than 50 people) scheduled for the next eight weeks be cancelled, the Oregon Convention Center {OCC) is not allowing the SCA out of its contract, leaving the SCA and its business partners in the city of Portland in legal jeopardy.

“We’re actively working to postpone Re:co and Expo but cancelling outright puts the liability burden on the SCA [and its partners],” said Apostopoulos. “If the directive comes from the state of Oregon, it allows [us] to disengage without legal or financial repercussions…[Basically,] unless we get a directive to [undo] our contract with the [OCC], we’re stuck.”

He stressed that “health and safety is the most important thing for SCA, and we will make the right call.” However, Apostopoulos did not give a deadline date for making the call to “pull the plug,” except to say that the decision could be made in “the next couple of weeks.”

When asked what companies that are scheduled to exhibit at Expo should do, Apostopoulos said that he cannot give clear directive, that they “must make their own decisions.”

Participants in the webinar also asked if there was a way they could help the situation. Apostopoulos wants to raise awareness and suggested tweeting or Instagraming “OregonGovBrown” — not to call out a mistake (or send angry or accusatory messages), rather, to bring attention to the issue with the hope of a positive resolution.

“We’re all in this together so it’s important to stay connected, work together, support each other, and learn from each other,” Apostopoulos shared. “We must try to help our industry to survive one way or another.”

To that end, the SCA is offering a variety of resources for the coffee community. It has compiled a living database to collect some of the many resources being shared by the specialty coffee community across social media and from business to business. The SCA hopes the database will act as a searchable, filterable list of locally offered programs and resources that may be of assistance to others “in a volatile moment for our communities.”

The SCA is accepting submissions through this online form, which will be automatically added to the database.

To view the SCA’s full database of community-contributed Covid-19 resources, visit: On this page there is also a poll the SCA created to help understand and document the impact that Covid-19 is having on the specialty coffee industry.

To read the complete announcement from SCA about the database, see:

For SCA updates relating to the Covid-19 situation, visit:

I hope everyone is staying health and safe amid such uncertainty. Be well, and to quote Yannis Apostopoulos, “Keep calm and keep drinking coffee — it will help entire supply chain.”

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